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Microsoft’s Free Anti-virus Software Morro

Having recently announced the upcoming release of its first free anti-virus software, Microsoft (MSFT) has put itself on the path of patching the yawning holes in its security, swooping at the same time into the territory of multi-billion dollar anti-virus companies Symantec (SYMC)and MacAfee (MFE). Morro, named after Brazil’s Morro de Sao Paulo beach, will replace Microsoft’s first foray into the anti-virus world. You may remember Live OneCare, Microsoft’s fizzle-and-flop attempt at virus protection, whose threat to industry leaders was far more bark than bite. Morro’s exact release date is unknown, though Microsoft says it will launch the free product by the end of 2009. Microsoft employees are currently testing an early version.

This has been a long time coming. In the mid 1990s, Microsoft turned a blind eye to the increasing security issues arising from the emergence of viruses. Symantec and MacAfee, the anti-virus industries two highest grossing leaders (in that order) were able to build lucrative businesses shoring up the security flaws found in Windows. Versions with varying levels of protection were added to the repertoire of the anti-virus software giants, and it wasn’t until 2004 that Microsoft decided to join the fray with their own pay-to-use security software. The Live OneCare failed rather miserably, and the average consumer was still forced to fork over anyway from $50 to $100 a year to secure their devices.

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Morro seems to be the final piece for Microsoft. A less intrusive, more efficient software with similar security capabilities, Morro offers protection from several forms of malicious software. Viruses, spyware, rootkits and Trojans will now be blocked for free, making the software comparable to low-end products from anti-virus software companies that typically run $40 a year or more.

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However, Symantec and MacAfee do not have too much reason to worry. Though shares of Symantec fell .5% (while MacAfee’s fell 1.3%) at the announcement of Morro, the companies have little reason to change their respective models. Morro, with its basic anti-virus protection, will likely only attract those unwilling to continue paying $40 or so a year for their current basic service. Add to that the average users who weren’t willing to pay for anti-virus in the first place, and you can see that the only business really lost is that which only constitutes a small percentage of their profit. For the most part, high-end consumers and businesses that need to always stay one-step ahead of the latest threats from hackers will stick with the advanced services they are already receiving. For anyone requiring more than the average user, it is likely Morro simply won’t do.

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The unveiling of Morro will not, for all practical purposes, send waves of shock through companies like Symantec and MacAfee. However, for those of us who simply use our computers as a technological accessory for day-to-day life, Morro just may be the perfect (translation: free) fix to the great debate over whether to save or secure.

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Microsoft is a secure company whether or not its security software ever gets off of the ground or not. The price of Microsoft’s stock has been fairly stagnant over the last eight years, with some recent downside action. A strong company like Microsoft with a stagnant stock price is a good candidate for a covered call investing strategy. There are many covered call strategies, but entering covered calls for strong companies with a stagnant stock price can be considered as similar to receiving a dividend, even when the company does not pay a dividend. Writing covered calls is very easy, an investor simply sells a call option against a purchase of 100 shares of stock. A covered calls position for Microsoft is currently available for July 2009 expiration with a potential return of 2.9%. This return can potentially be experienced in only 25 days. And as long as the call option expires worthless, call options can be sold against the Microsoft stock again the following month. So instead of receiving quarterly dividends, as dividends are generally paid, a covered call investing strategy can pay a monthly dividend.

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[tags] anti-virus, software, Brazil, Morro de Sao Paulo, Live OneCare, spyware, rootkits, Trojans, dividend, MFE, McAffee Inc., MSFT, Microsoft Corp., SYMC, Symantec Corp. [/tags]

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