Microsoft is changing its tune on computer security, two years after its much-heralded foray into the security space turned out to be less than spectacular. Instead of charging customers $50 per year for its Windows Live OneCare subscription security service, Microsoft says that beginning June 30 it will instead offer free software code-named "Morro," designed to seek and destroy viruses, spyware, rootkits and Trojans.

Microsoft also promised this week that Morro will be sleeker than Windows Live OneCare, which includes a number of non-security features, such as printer sharing and an automated "PC tune-up" program. This means Morro, as a purebred security application, should work quicker and more efficiently than its predecessor, because it's using fewer system resources.

The reason for the switch: Not enough people were signing up for one-year subscriptions of OneCare, Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates told BusinessWeek Tech Beat blog. Kay advised Microsoft on the Morro project.

By announcing Morro, Microsoft has stepped away from its brief battle with computer security stalwarts Symantec and McAfee, who were bracing themselves for a scuffle when the software juggernaut Microsoft entered their neighborhood. Microsoft has a history of dominating (for a while, anyway) the markets it enters, be it operating systems (Windows), word processing software (Word) or Web browsers (Internet Explorer). The emergence of Google's free Web-based software and the freely licensed Linux open-source operating system have over the past decade mounted a serious challenge to Microsoft's Windows and Office empires. Microsoft's decision to offer Morro free of charge could, however, be a sign that the company is willing to change its ways to adapt to its customers' changing expectations.

(Image courtesy of Microsoft)