A new generation of security software embodying a holistic vision of PC health is right around the corner. Besides offering updated security features new software from AOL McAfee Microsoft and Symantec promises backup services and PC tuning utilities with a different yearly service type of pricing.
Microsoft kicked off the new trend at the end of May with its launch of Windows Live OneCare which combines antivirus antispyware and firewall tools with Windows' defragging and cleanup utilities in one easytouse interface. OneCare also backs up data to CDs DVDs and external hard drivesthough not to network drives or online storage. See our review of OneCare for full details.
McAfee's beta version of Total Protection offers a new backup feature in addition to traditional security with GB of online storage.Not to be outdone established security companies McAfee and Symantec are assembling competing offerings; even AOL is throwing its hat into the ring. McAfee's new allinone package Total Protection came out in public beta in June with a final version scheduled for late summer. Symantec's entry Norton should appear by March ; and on July AOL unveiled a membersonly beta of its Total Care suite. AOL will make the final version of Total Care available to nonsubscribers though the company is not commenting on pricing; no final release date has yet been announced.
Norton will include proactive antiphishing protection that analyzes sites for fraudulent behavior.In addition to firewall antispyware and antivirus protection (AOL uses McAfee's engine for antivirus scanning) all three new products will add varying types of antiphishing features. OneCare lacks these defenses probably because they're built into the new Internet Explorer . Like IE AOL's limited feature blocks known phishing Web sites; McAfee's and Symantec's more sophisticated offerings can also analyze other Web sites and rate the sites' safety.
AOL McAfee and Symantec are also trying to outdo OneCare by supplementing their backup services with online storage. McAfee's Total Protection beta currently comes with GB of online storage. Symantec is still firming up pricing and features for its online backup service and AOL says that it will be offering online backups but not in time for the July beta.
Priced at $ per year for three PCs OneCare is less expensive than traditional security suites which tend to run $ and up for a single PC (plus a yearly antivirus subscription fee). The cost covers all software updates too; most traditional products do not. Clearly consumers have found Microsoft's package enticing: According to NPD Group a market research firm OneCare ranked among the top eight pieces of software sold in the United States during its first two weeks on retail shelves.
Chris Swenson director of software industry analysis for NPD Group expects similar pricing for Total Protection and Norton though neither McAfee nor Symantec has specified prices. He also anticipates improved customer service as the companies compete. Microsoft offers free phonebased tech support compared to McAfee's $perminute and Symantec's $perincident phone support. Symantec is building realtime chat into its products and AOL says its pricing will vary depending on the level of support it provides.
Microsoft's giant leap into the security software market caused quite a shakeupand according to Swenson that's a positive thing: "Consumers will benefit in the end."