RealTime IT News

Microsoft Still Pushing Live OneCare

Microsoft announced plans last month to kill off its subscription-based, Live OneCare security package. Did it forget to tell customers?

The software giant continues to send e-mail renewal notices for the full $49.95 annual subscription rate, even though Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said in November it plans to transition to a free security offering, code-named Morro, starting in the second half of 2009.

In addition to security and anti-malware, OneCare includes other features, such as PC tune-up, printer sharing and back up that will not be part of the upcoming Morro service. OneCare has struggled to gain significant market share versus traditional PC security offerings from McAfee, Norton and others.

The standard renewal notice lets customers they will be billed automatically for the $49.95 renewal fee unless they proactively cancel the service by the expiration date. Microsoft did announce the change of plans publicly in a release and a blog focused on OneCare.

The blog notes that OneCare customers will not automatically be converted to Morro, but customers "will be given the opportunity to opt in to using our new offering when the new solution is available."

None of this information is included in the renewal notice, which some observers think is a major blunder on Microsoft's part.

"That sounds pretty bad, that's not very good customer service," said Marketing Professor Gloria Barczak at Northeastern University College of Business Administration.

"It may well be a branding or marketing issue that someone didn't communicate or think through," Barczak told InternetNews.com. "That's the problem a lot of companies have, big and small; they don't think about how every little thing can affect the brand. Microsoft missed an opportunity to say thanks to its customers and explain the situation."

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed renewal notices will continue to be sent out to OneCare customers perhaps even beyond June 30 when retail sales of the product are slated to end.

"[Direct] to consumer sales of OneCare will continue until the new no-cost solution known as 'Morro' is available (H2 2009). Although OneCare will be discontinued in the future, all consumers who renew their 1-year subscriptions will continue to receive up-to-date virus signatures and remain protected for the life of their subscriptions," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to InternetNews.com.

Transition plans to be revealed

However, he also indicated Microsoft plans to update its renewal notices:

"There are plans to update renewal correspondences in the future to ensure current subscribers are aware of the pending changes to Microsoft's consumer security offering, but in the mean time the company recommends consumers continue to purchase or renew their subscriptions to ensure their PCs are adequately protected."

Analyst Roger Kay heartily endorsed Morro in last month's Microsoft's release. "By offering such basic protection at no charge to the consumer, Microsoft is promoting a safer environment for PCs, service providers and e-commerce itself, since it is through unprotected PCs that the worst threats are introduced to the system as a whole," said Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

But in an interview today with InternetNews.com, Kay said he thought Microsoft should be more forthcoming about the changes with customers.

"A cynic might ask why Microsoft didn't tell its customers first before the media, or maybe it felt telling the media did that," said Kay. "I see the logic of Morro, but if you're going to offer that you should let customers know that's in the works."

Microsoft Live OneCare