Microsoft Corp was to announce yesterday that it is releasing software that aims to better protect people who use its Windows operating system from Internet attacks. The move pits the world's largest software maker head-to-head with longtime business partners Symantec Corp, McAfee Inc and others.
Windows Live OneCare, which will protect up to three computers for US$49.95 per year, marks the latest step in Microsoft's effort over the years to make its operating system less vulnerable to crippling Internet attacks.
Redmond-based Microsoft has previously said that its main focus for OneCare was the 70 percent of computer users who, according to Microsoft estimates, have no additional protection at all.
But in an interview last week, Ryan Hamlin, general manager for the OneCare product, said the company also hopes to snag existing Symantec and McAfee customers.
"We'd love for those customers to use our product, and encourage them to, but there's also 70 percent that don't use anybody," he said.
Microsoft is hoping to gain an edge against Symantec and others by also including tools in OneCare to make computers run more smoothly and help people back up data.
McAfee said on Tuesday that it was preparing to release a new security service, code-named Falcon, this summer. A spokesman for Symantec, maker of the popular Norton products, said no one was available to comment on the OneCare competition.
Hamlin said that he expected the product to be profitable for Microsoft.
He said the company doesn't have any current plans to bundle OneCare into the Windows operating system, as it has done with products such as its Internet browser and music and video player. But he said the company was looking at ways to distribute the product through computer makers or Internet service providers, as many competing security software makers have done.
The OneCare release also comes on the heels of a federal lawsuit Symantec filed against Microsoft over a separate matter.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Seattle, accuses Microsoft of misappropriating Symantec's intellectual property and breach of contract. The dispute is over is over a technology that allows operating systems to handle large amounts of data.
Hamlin said Microsoft believes it acted appropriately.
Separately, Symantec said it has repaired a serious problem with versions of its leading antivirus software, which protects some of the world's largest corporations and US government agencies. The flaw lets hackers steal sensitive data, delete files or implant malicious programs.
Symantec began providing a repairing patch for its software over the weekend, just days after researchers disclosed the problem. The speedy response -- many software manufacturers take months to do similar repairs -- underscored the seriousness of the threat, which affected the latest corporate versions of Symantec Antivirus.
The company said the patch was available using its LiveUpdate technology, which distributes the latest antivirus protections. The company said it had not detected efforts by hackers to exploit the antivirus flaw.
Weafer said consumer versions of Symantec's popular Norton Antivirus software were not vulnerable to the flaw. Symantec's antivirus products are installed on more than 200 million computers.