Microsoft has today announced its intention to kill off its commercial consumer OneCare anti-virus product.
In a move that is sure to send shivers down the spines of vendors like McAfee and Symantec who have traditionally dominated the home user market for paid for anti-virus products, Microsoft has announced its intention to release a free consumer product (codenamed "Morro") in the second half of 2009.
In other words, it's time to wave goodbye to OneCare, and say hello to Morro. (Sorry..)
Of course, "Morro" will not be the first anti-virus product given away for free to home users. Vendor like AVG and Avira have made security solutions available for the consumer market at no charge for some time in an attempt to raise brand awareness.
But a free anti-virus program coming from Microsoft is a rather different kettle of fish. They have the brand recognition and marketing muscle to make their free anti-virus software a no-brainer for the average guy in the street.
And lets face it - anything which encourages Joe User to run up-to-date anti-virus software has to be a good thing. For too long all of us have suffered because of the legions of effectively undefended home computers that have been enlisted into a botnet.
What will be fascinating is to see if McAfee and Symantec have been caught napping by Microsoft's latest announcement. For years, the two security hippopotamuses were the behemoths of the consumer security pond. They had the opportunity to gobble up the end-user market, and yet still millions of home users were infected by malware, spyware and pop-ups each year. When OneCare is killed off next June, will consumers pay for an equivalent Norton or McAfee product?
The cognoscenti may be nervous of running the same anti-virus product as every other home user on the planet, but are they really likely to be running a free security product from Microsoft anyway?
Microsoft protecting home PCs for free might mean knee jerk reactions, and even perhaps more price-cuts and giveaways in an already aggressive market.
Oh, and the other side of this coin, of course, is how will the malware authors react? If budget-conscious home users begin to adopt the freebie "Morro" in droves, then surely the first thing the bad guys will do is make sure their latest creation can slip past Microsoft's scanner.