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Microsoft set to release software designed to thwart Net attacks

SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp. was to report today that it is releasing software to better protect people who use its Windows operating system from Internet attacks. The move pits the world's largest software maker head-to-head against longtime business partners Symantec Corp., McAfee Inc., and others.

Windows Live OneCare, to protect up to three computers for $49.95 per year, marks the latest step in Microsoft's effort to make its operating system less vulnerable.

Windows, which runs on the vast majority of personal computers, has been a near-constant target of worms, viruses, and other malicious code, hurting countless users and forcing Microsoft to invest heavily in patching vulnerabilities and eliminating flaws.

OneCare comes after months of public testing. Microsoft has previously said its focus for OneCare was the 70 percent of computer users who, according to Microsoft estimates, have no additional protection at all.

But last week, Ryan Hamlin, general manager for OneCare, said the company also hopes to snag Symantec and McAfee customers. ``We'd love for those customers to use our product, and encourage them to, but there's also 70 percent that don't use anybody," he said.

Microsoft is hoping to gain an edge by also including tools in OneCare to make computers run more smoothly and help people back up data.

McAfee said it was preparing to release a new security service, code-named Falcon, this summer. A spokesman for Symantec, maker of the popular Norton products, said no one was available to comment.

Hamlin said the company doesn't have any plans to bundle OneCare into the Windows operating system, as it has done with products such as its Internet browser and music and video player. But he said the company was looking at ways to distribute the product through computer makers or Internet service providers, as many competing security software makers have done.

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