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Microsoft's anti-spyware pickle

Is the software giant making customers pay for its products' defects?

Microsoft's latest security service--this time to provide anti-spyware to customers--could put the software giant in a bit of a pickle if the company decides to charge for the protection

Last week, the software giant announced it had launched a beta program for the public to test its recently acquired spyware-proofing software. While the company has been coy about whether it will charge for the service at the end of the beta program, Microsoft has not ruled out the prospect.

Yet, a fee could mean that the company is requiring customers to pay to protect their PCs against software defects that Microsoft developers should have caught.

While spyware usually takes advantage of a user's trusting nature to get installed on a PC--something that should not be considered Microsoft's fault--some software surreptitiously installs itself using flaws in the operating system. A user should expect that Microsoft would clean their systems from those hazards for free.

While the company has created a cleaning program to remove many worms, its unclear whether it will extend the program to clean all malicious software that installs itself using flaws in the Windows operating systems and applications.

Microsoft has made significant strides in locking down the Windows operating system in the past three years. However, a fix-for-fee anti-spyware tool could leave users questioning whether the company has done enough.