Microsoft Wednesday declared its surrender in the war for the retail security software market.

It has announced that it will stop selling Windows Live OneCare, its software as a service (SaaS) suite that offers maintenance, backup and performance tuning in addition to security, by the end of June. Instead it will offer Morro, a lightweight security package, free starting mid-2009.

"We were committed to getting more consumers protected around the world and we don’t want to confuse folks," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com. "We think that, with the features and functionalities being adopted by other products, offering these core security functionalities with OneCare would be repetitive."

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), noted for its competitive tenacity, is suggesting consumers turn to antivirus vendors if they want a security software suite. "We want to do what's best for the customer," the spokesperson explained.

The reaction from established antivirus vendors was mixed. One arch-rival, McAfee (NYSE: MFE), gloated about Microsoft’s abrupt departure, while another, Symantec, (NASDAQ: SYMC) declined comment.

When Microsoft introduced Windows Live OneCare in May of 2006, it said that users found it too difficult to use existing products in the marketplace and directly targeted established security software vendors such as McAfee and Symantec.

Fighting a losing battle

However, Windows Live OneCare, offered at $49.95 a year, never really caught on, and got hammered in evaluations of antivirus programs. Also, it didn't match the technological advances being made by products from established security software vendors.

Although it is retreating from the US market, Microsoft is turning this move into an attack on newer markets, aiming Morro mainly at emerging countries and at lighter-weight PCs in smaller form factors. "There’s a rapid increase in malware globally, the emerging nations are being affected, and we want to get consumers there protected," the spokesperson said. "And the lighter weight PCs in smaller form factors are mainly used there."

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