Finally.

This is exactly what I said Microsoft should be when it announced that it would actually charge consumers to fix the security problems with Windows. No more:

To address the growing need for a PC security solution tailored to the demands of emerging markets, smaller PC form factors and rapid increases in the incidence of malware, Microsoft Corp. plans to offer a new consumer security offering focused on core anti-malware protection.

Code-named “Morro,” this streamlined solution will be available in the second half of 2009 and will provide comprehensive protection from malware including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans. This new solution, to be offered at no charge to consumers, will be architected for a smaller footprint that will use fewer computing resources, making it ideal for low-bandwidth scenarios or less powerful PCs. As part of Microsoft’s move to focus on this simplified offering, the company also announced today that it will discontinue retail sales of its Windows Live OneCare subscription service effective June 30, 2009.

Built on Microsoft’s award-winning malware protection engine, “Morro” will take advantage of the same core anti-malware technology that fuels the company’s current line of security products, which have received the VB100 award from Virus Bulletin, Checkmark Certification from West Coast Labs and certification from the International Computer Security Association Labs. The new solution will deliver the same core protection against malware as that offered through Microsoft’s enterprise solutions, but will not include many of the additional non-security features found in many consumer security suites.

Windows Live OneCare, one of the first all-in-one suites to be launched in the consumer market, includes a number of non-security features, such as printer sharing and automated PC tune-up. By shifting to focus on the core anti-malware features that most consumers still don’t keep up to date, “Morro” will be able to provide the essential protections that consumers need without overusing system resources, and will help more consumers have better protection against online threats.

“Morro” will be available as a stand-alone download and offer malware protection for the Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. When used in conjunction with the ongoing security and privacy enhancements of Windows and Internet Explorer, this new solution will offer consumers a robust, no-cost security solution to help protect against the majority of online threats.

So this is good news. Very good news. But I have some concerns about the removal of “non-security features,” unless Microsoft sees fit to deliver them in a separate free offering. Both Windows Defender and Windows Live OneCare currently offer excellent tools to reduce the number of programs that start when Windows boots. But Microsoft is removing that tool (Software Explorer) from the version of Defender in Windows 7. And now that Morro is dropping the similar functionality in Windows Live OneCare, there’s no simple way for consumers to perform this vital service.

Also worth reading: A Microsoft Press Pass interview with Amy Barzukas, who is responsible for this new Morrow security tool.

UPDATE: Over five years ago, in July 2003, I wrote an editorial called Microsoft Needs to Offer Free Antivirus to its Windows Customers, in which I spelled out what I thought was a pretty obvious need:

Microsoft has a responsibility to bundle core antivirus technologies in Windows--for free, not for a monthly subscription fee--and that by doing so, the company will prove that it's more concerned about its customers than its relationships with certain partners.

Antivirus technology isn't an optional component anymore--it's more like a crucial part of the engine. If you're connected online, you should have antivirus protection; in other words, the car shouldn't even start unless this crucial component is enabled. This is just commonsense.

Come on, Microsoft, do the right thing. Customers come first.

Five years later and Microsoft apparently agrees.

Now explain to me why this won’t be part of Windows 7. A separate download is OK. But bundled into the OS is much better.