Microsoft Readying Free Morro AV Software


Analysts see the move as a competitive threat to those companies, which make anti-virus products that have long been a part of the Microsoft Windows ecosystem

Microsoft plans to launch a free anti-virus service for PCs “soon,” according to the company.

The program, code-named Morro and eventually available for download from Microsoft’s Website, could represent a potential long-term threat to companies such as Symantec and McAfee that market anti-virus software for PCs.

The code name apparently is in reference to Morro de Sao Paolo, a village on the island of Tinhare in Brazil, one of the emerging markets that Microsoft is attempting to penetrate with the release. Microsoft originally announced the free software in November 2008, and has suggested that Morro will replace Live OneCare, another anti-virus product that failed to gain substantive market traction.

Early reports suggest that Morro will be comparable in its offerings to low-end software from McAfee, Symantec and other companies in the space, which make programs generally costing between $40 (£24) and $50. Morro will protect against viruses and spyware, as well as rootkits and Trojans. The question remains whether some of the features that users expect from other products, such as encryption and data backup, will also be present.

Some analysts reportedly see Microsoft’s entry as a potential danger to those companies. “It’s a long-term competitive threat,” Daniel Ives, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets, told Reuters.

At least publicly, one of the potential companies seemed ready for battle.

“On a level playing field, we are confident in our ability to compete with anyone who might enter the marketplace,” Joris Evers, a spokesperson for McAfee, also told Reuters.

McAfee and Symantec have been wrestling with other issues as of late. Both companies agreed on 10 June to pay $375,000 (£226,543) each as part of a settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office over claims that the companies failed to adequately notify customers about the terms of the subscription renewal process and charged customers without their consent.

Microsoft has been attempting to reduce its vulnerabilities, as well. On June 9, the company updated with 10 security bulletins designed to plug 31 vulnerabilities as part of a Patch Tuesday update. The fixes include eight Internet Explorer vulnerabilities, including a critical one affecting Internet Explorer 8.