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Microsoft plans to roll out a new release of its Windows Live OneCare managed security service to consumers in the United States and 16 other countries on Jan.30 –to coincide with the general release of Windows Vista.

This updated service, which brings automated PC protection, maintenance, performance tuning and support, will be available for purchase online or through participating retail outlets, at an annual subscription rate of $49.95, which covers up to three PCs.

Consumers will also be able to download the Windows Live OneCare subscription service.

This latest service builds on the safety features found in Windows Vista, and includes Internet Explorer anti-phishing protection activation, unified anti-virus and anti-spyware filtering capabilities, Windows Vista support, and increased backup options, said Ryan Hamlin, the general manager of Microsoft’s technology care and safety group.

Read more here about how McAfee introduced a rival offering to Microsoft’s OneCare.

“Not only does the service provide real-time anti-virus protection and manage firewall policies to address new and evolving threats, but it also goes beyond security to help simplify important maintenance tasks such as backing up photos, music and other files to a variety of storage devices and defragmenting the hard drive to help increase the performance of consumers’ PCs,” he said.

All active OneCare subscribers will be automatically upgraded to this latest release while they are online, he said.

Microsoft is also offering everyone who participated in the beta program for this release a discount of some 60 percent off the annual subscription fee if they sign up between Jan. 23 and Feb. 12, while many retailers plan to offer rebates and other in-store promotions for OneCare in the coming weeks, Hamlin said.

To read more about why some believe that the entry of OneCare to the consumer security market is another sign that the era of security software choice is over, click here.

“In addition to helping guard against viruses, spyware, phishing scams and other security threats, OneCare also handles a variety of essential PC care practices behind the scenes so our customers can have peace of mind that their PC is being taken care of and will be able to spend their valuable time on other things,” he said.

The service, which has only been available in the United States to customers running Windows XP Service Pack 2 until now, will be made available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland and the UK on Jan. 30.

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