Users running Windows will be charged almost $50 each year for having their PCs protected by Microsoft against attacks from hackers.
Microsoft's Windows OneCare Live program will be launched in June and made available online and via retailers for an annual fee of $49.95 on up to three machines. Customers who beta test Windows OneCare Live between April 1 and April 30 get to take advantage of a special $19.95 promotional price.
Microsoft's pricing means Windows OneCare subscribers are likely to pay less up front than if they bought traditional anti-virus software like Symantec, for example, whose Norton AntiVirus 2006 protection pack for three PCs lists at $89.99.
However, it would seem subscribers will pay more on the renewal front - another $49.95 compared to Symantec's $29.99 to renew without upgrading.
Windows OneCare Live is described by Microsoft as an "automatic and self-updating PC care service". Subscribers will receive anti-virus and firewall protection updates, "PC tune-ups" that help maintain the performance and reliability of their PCs, back-up and restore capabilities, and help and support.
Microsoft underlined the advantage in using Windows OneCare in a statement, saying: "Research showed that most people's computers are insufficiently protected from threats... because users find the protection process confusing and frustrating." Windows OneCare Live provides a "just take care of it for me" service.
News of the pricing comes a week after exiting Windows chief Jim Allchin told Computer Reseller News (CRN) the long-awaited Windows Vista client would not feature anti-virus protection, and customers would need to subscribe to Windows OneCare Live.
That decision was based on business considerations rather than technical merits.
Microsoft's decision to charge customers extra for anti-virus protection comes despite repeated claims by the company about the level of importance accorded to security in Windows Vista. Allchin last month said: "Safety and security is the overriding feature that most people will want to have Windows Vista for." ®