Microsoft is starting an anti-virus and security service for PC users.
The service will be aimed at automatically keeping PCs healthy
The service would be on a yearly subscription basis, just like other anti-virus protection services.
Called Windows OneCare, it is to be tested by the software giant's employees, before a trial release for the rest of the world later this year.
Although Microsoft already offers security features in its software for free, it recently bought anti-virus technology to help beef up security.
"We're designing the service so it will continually update and evolve over time," Ryan Hamlin, Microsoft's general manager of the technology safety group said in a statement.
The service is designed to automatically patch-up security holes, as well as beef up anti-virus and spyware protection. It will also help maintain the health of a user's PC generally, according to Microsoft.
Many people fail to protect themselves online and forget to run regular scans on their computers to check for spyware - programs that sneak onto computers which can surreptitiously monitor user behaviour or steal information.
Romanian software company, GeCAD Software, was bought in 2003 to develop Microsoft's own anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
Competition for others
The move will put Microsoft in competition with other net security firms which offer paid-for protection services, such as Symantec, Trend Micro and McAfee.
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for net security firm Sophos, applauded the move and welcomed Microsoft as a "responsible newcomer" to the anti-virus market.
He said it highlighted the need for effective security services for home computer users who are traditionally poorly protected.
STAYING SAFE ONLINE
Install anti-virus software
Keep your anti-virus software up to date
Install a personal firewall
Use Windows updates to patch security holes
Do not open e-mail messages that look suspicious
Do not click on e-mail attachments you were not expecting
"Microsoft wants end users to feel safe when they use the internet, and not to feel that Microsoft is doing nothing about the security problem," he said.
It could also help claw back confidence in Windows' security. But, he told the BBC News website, it could spell trouble for some who might feel threatened.
"Microsoft launching an anti-virus product for home users could force some anti-virus vendors to be even more aggressive in this space in order to retain market share.
"Vendors such as Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro who have a large home user base will find themselves up against a competitor with a formidably strong brand in the consumer market.
He added that Microsoft was also keen to stem any migration of its users to other operating systems, such as Apple's Mac OS X and Unix-based systems.
Sophos was not so worried about the move, he said, because its effort were focused primarily on business protection rather than home users.
Apple has offered an anti-virus subscription service for its users for some time.