Limited beta release marks first time that anyone outside Microsoft has used the upcoming package of security tools.
Microsoft announced its plans for OneCare in May, and last month it invited people to register for the first beta release of the tools. The first testers are now being asked to download the software, a Microsoft representative said Wednesday. During the next few weeks, the beta pool will be expanded to several thousand participants.
This test round, which Microsoft calls a "limited managed external beta," is the first time that people outside the company have been able to try out the product, which has already been put through its paces by employees. A broad public beta is planned in the United States later this year, Microsoft said.
OneCare combines anti-spyware software, which Microsoft is already publicly testing, with antivirus and firewall software and with several tune-up tools for Windows PCs. Pricing for OneCare has not been announced, but Microsoft has said that the final package will be offered as a subscription service. It is meant for consumers, rather than businesses.
OneCare marks Microsoft's long-anticipated entry into the antivirus space, until now the domain of specialized vendors such as Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro. Microsoft announced its intent to offer antivirus products two years ago, when it bought Romanian antivirus software developer GeCad Software.