Beta of ‘Morro’ Anti-Malware Starts Today

Microsoft is set to begin public beta testing of its free anti-malware engine Tuesday morning when the download site goes live.

Originally codenamed “Morro” and now renamed Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), the anti-malware engine is meant to at least partially replace Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) OneCare PC health package, subscriptions for which will no longer be sold as of the end of June.

Microsoft announced it was eliminating OneCare, its competitor to low-end security and PC health packages, when it introduced ‘Morro’ last fall.

In its place, MSE will provide basic security protection for PC users, though it’s not expected to compete with competitors’ higher-end antivirus products. Microsoft has been testing MSE internal so far.

It will begin public beta testing in Brazil, Israel and the U.S. on June 23, a company spokesperson said in a e-mail to late last week. In the past week and a half, Microsoft has clarified the beta test schedule and officially named the product.

The company has said it plans to ship the final version of MSE by year’s end.

“Microsoft Security Essentials has been designed as a no-cost anti-malware solution that provides consumers with quality protection from threats including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans. It will be offered directly from Microsoft and has been designed to be hassle-free and is focused on delivering quality protection that’s easy to use,” the spokesperson said.

MSE will be available for public beta download as of about 9 a.m. Pacific time here.

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