Microsoft ready to launch beta of its free Morro antivirus offering

Finally! Microsoft seems ready to offer an external beta of its free Morro antivirus/anti-malware product after pre-announcing it last November. The supposed ship date for the final version remains Q2/Q3 2009.

Last fall, Microsoft announced its intentions to deliver a free replacement for its OneCare antivirus/anti-malware product for Windows PC consumers. Since then, company officials repeatedly have refused to provide any more info on Morro's status (beyond the promised Q2/Q3 2009 launch date).

It would stand to reason that date must be close, since Microsoft has been removing OneCare from the channel for the past couple of months. And, as one of my readers noted today:

"I thought OneCare was supposed to die in June, and working for a small business, I'm trying to figure out if we can play wait-and-see on it or if we really need to plunk down $1k for antivirus licenses for everybody. (Right now we're not running anything! Eek!)"

Yes, reader, OneCare is only available at retail through June 30, 2009. But I haven't been able to get Microsoft to provide any guidelines on when and whether the company planned to launch a public or private external test build of Morro. (I ask periodically, to no avail.)

However, Reuters seemed to have more luck:

"A Microsoft spokesman said on Wednesday (June 10) that the world's biggest software maker is testing an early version of the product with its own employees. Microsoft would 'soon' make a trial version, or product beta, available via its website, he added, but declined to provide a specific date."

Morro is being marketed by the Windows Client team, but is being developed by Microsoft's Forefront security team and is based on the Forefront antivirus/anti-malware engine. Microsoft's reasoning for going from a paid subscription service to a free Morro client: By getting Morro on all consumer PCs, especially those whose users may not have the money or interest to run antivirus/anti-malware software, that it will be able to better secure the entire Windows ecosystem,

It sounds as though Microsoft may have told some bloggers/press about its rollout plans for Morro under non-disclosure. So I wouldn't be surprised to see the Softies deliver the Morro beta in the coming days...

What are you hoping/expecting to see in Morro?

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