Microsoft OneCare coming in June

Backup and security subscription will cost $50 per year

Microsoft Corp. will launch its Windows OneCare Live PC maintenance service in June, the company said Tuesday. The offering, which has been available for free in beta since November, will be sold for $49.95 per year, and certain beta users will be able to purchase the service for a reduced rate of $19.95.

This $49.95 annual subscription fee will cover as many as three Windows XP PCs, said Brian Hall, group program manager with Microsoft. "It means that 98% of homes in the U.S. will be able to buy one subscription and be able to cover all of their PCs," he said.

The service is designed to simplify PC maintenance for consumers by combining antivirus, antispyware, PC tuning and backup capabilities through one interface. Increasingly analysts and vendors believe this type of integrated service will replace stand-alone antivirus and backup products that are widely used today.

"We pull it all together in a super-simple, super-straightfoward user experience," Hall said.

In July of last year, a select group of 20,000 beta testers got a first look at the product. After four months of closed testing, the beta program was opened up in November to anyone interested in trying out OneCare, and there are now "hundreds of thousands" of beta testers, Hall said.

An upcoming revision to the beta code, expected at the end of this month, will include the Windows Defender antispyware code. This will be the last major security component to be incorporated into OneCare before its June launch.

Combined services like OneCare have a good chance of succeeding in the $15 billion per year consumer security market, said Andrew Jaquith, an analyst at Yankee Group Research Inc. "It's a good idea," he said. "OneCare was really a market-moving event when it was announced a year ago, because it wasn't obvious these things should be put together."

Security vendors are clearly paying attention. Just last week, Symantec Inc. announced plans to launch a competitor to OneCare, code-named Genesis, which is due in September. Like OneCare, Genesis will provide antivirus, antispyware, system tuning and backup and recovery services.

The free beta version of the service is available here.

Beta testers who sign up for the paid service between April 1 and April 30th will get the special rate of $19.95.

Narasu Rebbapragada of PC World contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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