Microsoft Security Essentials Premiering June 23rd

Noted in ComputerWorld today, the beta of Microsoft Security Essentials will be made available on June 23. The details are being fleshed out now that the wraps are off the project. Security Essentials will completely replace the functionality of Windows Defender, and search for viruses and malware of all types. The installer will insist that any other form of competing software be removed, and then, after a quick check to see if your copy of Windows is legal, it will install.

Microsoft Corp. today said it will release a public beta of its free antimalware software, now called Microsoft Security Essentials, formerly “Morro,” next Tuesday for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.

Although Microsoft was vague about a final ship date — saying only that it would wrap up sometime this year — it was crystal clear that it will deny the program to PCs running counterfeit copies of Windows.

Microsoft pitched Security Essentials as a basic antivirus, antispyware program that boasts a simplistic interface and consumes less memory and disk space than commercial security suites like those from vendors such as Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc.

“This is security you can trust,” said Alan Packer, general manager of Microsoft’s antimalware team, when asked to define how it differs from rivals, both free and not. “And it’s easy to get and easy to use.”

He stressed the Security Essentials’ real-time protection over its scanning functions, which are both integral to any security software worth its weight. “Rather than scan and clean, which it also does, it’s trying to keep you from being infected in the first place,” Packer said.

One of its most interesting features is what Microsoft calls “Dynamic Signature Service,” a back-and-forth communications link between a Security Essentials-equipped PC and Microsoft’s servers.

Mary-Jo Foley, long time Microsoft watcher on ZDNet, has some more information to add to the story -

• Microsoft is making MSE available for public beta testing starting some time on June 23. It will be available in 32- and 64-bit flavors, downloadable from the Microsoft Connect site. The test version is targeted at users in English-speaking countries, plus Brazil, Israel (and some time later this year), China (in simplified Chinese).
• The beta will remain open until the final version of the MSE product is released before the end of calendar 2009. (Microsoft officials won’t provide any more specific of a date target than that.) The final product will be a free download available directly from Microsoft.com.
• Microsoft will be updating and refreshing the beta code regularly in the coming months by pushing updates over Windows Update and other Web mechanisms. MSE isn’t Microsoft-hosted, but it does include a Dynamic Signature updating service that Microsoft is touting as “cloud-based.”
• Microsoft plans to offer PC OEMs and system builders the option to bundle MSE on new PCs, but it isn’t expecting any of the big PC makers to jump, since they currently make money by preloading competing, paid offerings from third-party providers.
• Speaking of third-party products, MSE will uninstall Windows Defender if it is present on a user’s PC, as MSE is a “superset” of Defender. Upon setup, MSE also will advise users to uninstall other third-party offerings, as running multiple antivirus/anti-malware offerings degrades PC performance.

Though not spoken of, I would think that the server products could have this solution installed, if you really mist have a free antivirus solution (all the free solutions I know of refuse to install on anything that identifies itself as a server product – it does not matter if you are using it in a workstation capacity) Then again, Microsoft might have this functionality removed, similar to the way that Windows 2000 was precluded from using Windows Defender, not because it was not possible, but because Microsoft so decreed.

I read somewhere that the number of downloads would be limited, but now I see nothing stating that in the ZDNet or ComputerWorld articles, so I guess that isn’t the case.

Will you trust Microsoft to secure your PC? Do you believe that they are capable of doing an acceptable job, considering the product is free, and that there are paid utilities that don’t always work?

If any of you have a server product, and are going to try to install this, I’d appreciate a word on it, as I might try it on a machine I have (I have 2 unused copies of Windows 2003 Server, and I’m thinking of using them on machines I’m building soon, to replace machine that have XP on them) Thanks.

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