Microsoft will begin the international roll-out of its consumer security software on Jan. 30 when it releases a new version of Windows Live OneCare in the U.S. and 16 other countries.
OneCare -- which incorporates antivirus, antispyware, firewall management, backup and tune-up functions -- has been available in the U.S. since May 2006. Existing users there will be automatically upgraded to the latest release, Microsoft said.
It said the new version of the product will provide unified virus and spyware scanning, more flexible file back-up options and support for the Windows Vista OS, which is also being released to consumers Jan. 30.
The release of OneCare marked Microsoft's entry into a heated security software market led by Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro. Microsoft has priced OneCare at US$49.95, and it can be used on up to three computers running Windows XP or Vista.
Pricing will be about the same worldwide, Microsoft said, and consumers will be able to either download OneCare or buy it in stores. The countries where it will be offered for the first time are Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore. There was no word yet about plans for additional countries.
Microsoft has been running a worldwide beta program since last year. Users who participated in the program are eligible for 60 percent off an annual subscription if they sign up between Jan. 23 and Feb. 12.
Microsoft secured just 1.2 percent of worldwide antivirus revenue in 2005, according to figures published by IDC last month. Analysts predict that OneCare will pose more of a challenge to the leading vendors.