The beta version of Microsoft's security software is a hit. The software giant announced Wednesday on its Web site that it had reached the U.S. limit on downloads for Microsoft Security Essentials -- which was only made available Tuesday.
The general release of the free software is expected this fall.
"Alert!" said a posting on the Web page for the security software. "Thank you for your interest in joining the Microsoft Security Essentials Beta. We are not accepting additional participants at this time. Please check back at a later date for possible additional availability."
Limit Reached Within 24 Hours
The beta became available Tuesday morning and reached the limit for the U.S. and Israel within twenty-four hours. Microsoft had said it would allow 75,000 downloads for users in the U.S., Israel and Brazil.
According to news reports, the limit for the U.S. and Israel was reached at about 5 a.m. PDT Wednesday. The limit of 20,000 downloads for Brazilian users hadn't been reached, meaning 55,000 downloads were reserved for U.S. and Israel.
Microsoft said the cap was "based on our ability to support the beta while still maintaining our commitment to delivering a quality product in the time frame promised."
The free software, which helps protect a PC against viruses, spyware, Trojans, rootkits and other malware, was developed under the code name of Morro. It consists of the anti-malware components of Windows Live OneCare, for which there has been an annual charge of $49.95.
Security Essentials will regularly update itself with signatures of new malware through its online signature service. To do so, auto updates need to be enabled in Windows. The software is designed for PCs running Windows Vista, Windows XP, and the upcoming Windows 7.
'Pretty Big' Threshold
The free service is expected to compete directly with the lower-end offerings of McAfee and Symantec, two of the leading providers of security software.
Microsoft said last year that retail sales of Live OneCare would be discontinued by the end of this month. Support will continue through the end of current subscriptions. As Security Essentials rolls out, all Live OneCare sales, including online, will be phased out.
According to industry observers, Microsoft has been concerned because PCs have been getting infected, and it has been impacting the Microsoft experience as well as the Windows reputation. Some analysts have also noted that signature-based antivirus software has basically become a commodity, where the distinguishing feature is price.
Peter Firstbrook, an analyst with industry research firm Gartner, said 55,000 downloads was a "pretty big" threshold to be reached in a day for a beta program. He mentioned that he went to get a download, but was too late.
"Everybody wants to see what this software is about," he said, adding that it's not clear if Microsoft will offer another round of beta downloads before the final release.