May 12, 2005 9:00 PM PDT

Security gripes? Microsoft feels your pain

It's not news to Microsoft that many, if not most, average Windows users have gripes about their PC experiences.

In response, the software company is unveiling on Friday a new subscription-based computer fix-it service, aimed at automatically patching security holes, blocking viruses and spyware, and generally automating the chores of maintaining a computer's health.

Dubbed Windows OneCare, the service will draw in part on existing tools like the company's anti-spyware software, as well as on basic PC management functions inside Windows. But it will add a more powerful firewall, ongoing antivirus protection, and the right to get a live support person on the phone without paying extra, the company said.

"We're trying to address a consumer need we see being unmet today," said Dennis Bonsall, group product manager for the company's technology care and safety group, noting that most people don't run even a basic antivirus scan on their computers at home. "Our target is those consumers who aren't protected by this kind of PC health solution today."

The service, which won't be available for ordinary consumers even in beta until much later this year, represents the latest stage in Microsoft's move against the security problems that have plagued its software over the past few years.

But it also adds to the growing number of ways, such as with MSN and the Xbox Live gaming service, that the company is seeking to establish an ongoing billing relationship with customers. The service should provide the company with recurring revenue, as opposed to the one-time sales of software releases like Windows or Microsoft Office.

The OneCare service marks the first time that Microsoft has offered antivirus software directly to consumers, even though it has spent several years buying companies that offer the technology. Executives said they did not plan on offering the virus-fighting technology outside the OneCare bundle of services.

The package will also include the Microsoft's spyware-fighting tools and a firewall that blocks unauthorized outbound traffic, such as spyware data, as well as the inbound traffic blocked by XP.

Analysts said a Microsoft antivirus product would be likely to appeal to the large percentage of consumers--close to 75 percent, by some estimates--who have no virus protection loaded on their computers.

"I don't think that Microsoft is going to take market share away from (security providers like Symantec), but instead it's more likely (Microsoft) will be able to attract a lot of people who haven't had antivirus on their desktops before," said Gartner analyst Peter Firstbrook.

The OneCare package also will offer automatic computer care tools such as disk defragging and file repair, and scheduled data backup features that will save critical data such as photos and financial information to CDs or DVDs.

Microsoft critics often point out that many of the worst PC problems, ranging from viruses to spyware, take advantage of security vulnerabilities in Microsoft's own Windows, Internet Explorer and other software. But company executives said there was nothing untoward about charging consumers in part to block these problems.

"I think that at this point, a fair number of the kind of threats we see on the security front are not just attacking vulnerabilities," said Amy Roberts, director of product management in Microsoft's Security, Business and Technology unit. "Security is a key component, but OneCare goes beyond that to help customers have a broader sense of PC health."

The service will be launched in beta form to Microsoft employees in a week, and will be released to consumers in late summer or fall, the software giant said. The company did not provide any details on projected pricing.

27 comments

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Huh....so if I'm understanding correctly.
Microsoft wants me to pay for securing a product that they themselves make? Hmmm...I fully expect Billy boy to come out at CES next year in a pinstripe suit and straw hat selling Uncle Bill's magic elixir that will cure you of that awful indigestion that you got from the snacks Microsoft was handing out in their booth. If MS wasnt an above the board company Id swear they have the best racket since bootlegging in the 1920s. The mob must stand in complete awe of Microsoft. They have a racket that is as slimy but can skate by the US Government without nary a scratch. Bravo sir. Bravo.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And...
people will do it thinking what a good deal they are getting.

People demand so very little and in return they get so very little, but pay quite a bit for the privilage. In the end we have and still allow companies to tell us what we will get. It's not about free and open source. It's about getting companies to take responsablity and provide the products and services that consumers demand. Not just accepting what they give us as good enough.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
Hmmm...
So if my house is ever burgled (cracked) maybe I should hold the builder of the house responsible since they didn't make my house secure enough.
Posted by BazNZ (81 comments )
Link Flag
As long as....
...you remember to hold the builder liable for that annoying problem he left your house with...you know..the one where if a burglar knocks on the door the right way a key to all the locks falls into his hands, and the house recognizes him as the owner.
Posted by Mister L (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
As long as
You can no longer hold the builder accountable when the builder offers a free fix for the locks, but you never bother to get them.
Most just like to bash MS for security flaws(yet ignore Apple's 20 latest fixes or FireFox's), but it is a 2 way street. Many of the worse virus/worm outbreaks have occurred after the patch was available to the public.
Posted by catchall (245 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft feels your pain
Some of you may be willing to pay Microsoft to feel your pain, but I prefer keeping them away from my posterior. This new service will allow Microsoft to add more bloated eye candy to future operating systems with security holes large enough to drive a bus through, then charge OneCare subscribers even more to automatically patch them. Waiting on hold for the free privilege of getting a real live support person will also help ease your pain.
Posted by br77575 (46 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Meeting at Microsoft...
Suit #1: revenue is falling

Suit #2: It's because darn customers don't like our Swiss cheese. And our patches are for free.

Suit #1: let's charge for them, and make it look like a service to the customer.

....

Suit #1: revenue is falling...

Suit #2: and the patchin' program is not making money. Darn customers are not convinced.

Suit #1: lets make some more holes...

Farfetched? Not for me...

Oh, and another thing. It is not enough they destroyed the software market with their monopoly. Now they are also going after the people that are making money by fixing their mess (guess there is always something good at everything)
Posted by Steven N (487 comments )
Link Flag
What crap !
First they sell you a crappy OS, then they sell you a maintainance plan ! Switch to Linux, people - dont you see what Microsoft is doing to you ?
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Too funny
Only MS would have the audacity to charge for their failures.

Given Microsofts track record, these add-ons will be full of bugs and security holes themselves.

Only a moron would pay MS for this, when they can not only get 3rd party apps for free, but they work well.
Posted by pcLoadLetter (395 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Kind of the point
The third party apps you mention have been out for quite a while, and work very well. Yet people don't use them and/or they don't maintain them. With AVG, ZoneAlarm, WinPatrol, and Spybot, I have not had a virus/malware infection since the days of booting off floppies to get games working. They are free, easy to use, and many average users just can't be bothered.
I think it is silly to pay for stuff that is free. Others may not.
Posted by catchall (245 comments )
Link Flag
Protection Racket
The 20's in Chicago is the correct analogy here!!
Poor retail shop owners would rent a storefront and about
the second week in business they would get a visit from the
"Insurance Company".
" You have a nice store here, it would be a pity if anything
happened."
"Happened, what could happen?"
"Well, a fire, a window broken, broken pipes, who knows?"
"So, are you the ones who will pay us if this happens?"
"You don't understand. You pay upfront so that it won't
happen."
"Upfront? What kind of insurance is this?"
"This an old building and we need to keep a constant eye
open for bad things so you don't have trouble."
"What if I don't want this insurance?"
"Well, have a nice day."
Posted by PCChapman (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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