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Yesterday's MarketWatch reported the following on Microsoft (MSFT):

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday officially rolled out its OneCare product designed to guard consumers using its Windows operating system against the growing number of Internet threats, while helping their computers run properly.

The launch marks Microsoft’s biggest formal push into the PC security market yet, and pits the world’s largest software firm directly against security-software makers like Symantec Corp. (SYMC) and McAfee (MFE)...

Microsoft’s launch followed months of testing of the product, which it says offers an “all-in-one, automatic and self-updating PC care service” to help users of its dominant Windows operating system protect their data and easily maintain their computers.

Used to power over 90% of the world’s computers, Windows is often the target of malicious attacks like viruses and worms.

Of course, the other way to protect Windows users from malicious threats would be to make the operating system more secure in the first place. It remains to be seen whether consumers will be willing to fork over extra money to Microsoft and create a conflict of interest for the company: do we improve Windows or sell more OneCare?

Still, rival antivirus providers have been feeling the heat, as the chart below shows all too clearly:

SYMC and MFE losses, last 12 months:

Antivirus perf. 1 yr

Symantec, not having a new version of their software available to crow about, instead issued a press release naming the next version:

Norton 360, previously codenamed Genesis, is part of Symantec’s broader vision for the next generation of online security, coined Security 2.0.

Norton 360 is expected to launch by the end of Symantec’s fiscal year, with the specific launch timing to be determined based on customer feedback during the beta program. The service will launch with worldwide availability in multiple languages and countries. It will provide security protection for both the Windows XP and the upcoming Windows Vista operating system when it is available.

Hmm… didn’t some other company recently name one of their products 360? Is it us, or is today’s press release a sign that Symantec is a little paranoid about Microsoft?

Source: As Microsoft Rolls Out Antivirus Protection, Competitors Running Scared (MFE, MSFT, SYMC)