Microsoft discontinues Windows Live OneCare – offers lightweight alternative for free

Microsoft just announced that it is discontinuing Windows Live OneCare from 2009, replacing it with a free lightweight alternative, codenamed “Morro”.  The new product will be available towards the end of 2009, and provide complete malware protection to consumers, at no cost.

This is in contrast to Windows Live Onecare, which currently offers malware protection, backup, online photo backup, multiple machine monitoring and a firewall. However these features come with a price tag of around $30 for 3 machines. Windows Live OneCare subscriptions will stop being sold via retail channels from 30 June 2009, though direct sales via Microsoft will stop only when “Morro” is available.

A Q&A with Amy Barzdukas from Microsoft, highlights the following key points:

“The decision to offer a new anti-malware solution, code-named “Morro,” at no additional cost to consumers is driven by our commitment to provide a trustworthy computing experience. We know that there are still some 60 percent of consumers in developed markets, and even more in emerging markets, that don’t have up-to-date security protection on their PCs, and we want to help provide that core level of protection.”

“This offering is not a free version of Windows Live OneCare. “Morro” represents a new offering that is designed in response to market changes and consumer needs. We hear from consumers that they need core malware protection in low-bandwidth scenarios, or that will run on less powerful machines. That’s why we will design “Morro” to have a smaller footprint and to use fewer computing resources. This new solution will not offer or support multi-PC “circle” management, printer sharing, performance-enhancing tools such as disk defragmenting, or any of the backup and restore capabilities that make up the Windows Live OneCare suite.”

The Windows Live OneCare team just posted too. They confirm that updates to virus definitions will continue to the end of OneCare subscriptions. However they also say that the online backup functionality will continue to be available. I would assume however that once the subscription ends, users will be encouraged to switch to the new Wave 3 offerings, using Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Sync and Windows Live Photos instead.

This move comes as somewhat of a surprise, with talk about OneCare 3.0 being currently in development. Hell we may have even caught a sneak peek. Given the lack of press around this as its breaking, this was clearly not one of those stories under embargo, so it’ll be interesting to see what coverage this gets over the next few days.

Update: Ina Fried is reporting that Microsoft Equipt, the bundled version of Office and OneCare will now be discontinued also.

Ryan Naraine also mentions the obvious anti-trust implications, however given that “Morro” won’t be bundled with Windows 7, it seems as though a court outcome may not be clear cut.