Microsoft will end its subscription-based OneCare security package and offer consumers free protection against viruses and other malware by the middle of 2009.
The company has just announced (one hour ago) that it will launch a new and free anti-malware system codenamed 'Morro' by the second half of 2009. It will also cease selling OneCare subscriptions by the 30th June 2009.
The 'Morro' system aims to "protect against a range of online threats including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans."
The press release, which was sent to UK journalists around bedtime, said that the new security system will "address the demands created by smaller PC form factors, rapid PC growth in emerging markets and the increasing threat from global malware."
This probably means that it will work 'in the cloud', rather than using a large, sluggish and system-crippling application that downloads megabytes of updates every few hours. Small PCs often lack the processing power necessary to run demanding security applications alongside productivity-based programs (software that lets you actually do things, rather than avoid bad things).
There are security implications with running software and services online, and this applies just as much to anti-virus software as it does to online word processing and photo editing services. For example, what happens when your laptop is working offline and someone hands you an infected flash drive? If the computer can't ask a server whether or not a file is bad, it may allow malware to infect the system.
In the meantime, new and old OneCare subscribers can expect to receive a service for the lifetime of their paid-for subscriptions.
More information is available directly from Microsoft.