Microsoft is to launch the US version of its long-awaited Windows OneCare Live PC maintenance service in June.

The product - which has been available for free in beta since November - will be sold for US$49.95 per year, and certain beta users will be able to purchase the service for a reduced rate of $19.95.

This $49.95 annual subscription fee will cover as many as three Windows XP PCs, said Brian Hall, group programme manager with Microsoft. "It means that 98 percent of homes in the US will be able to buy one subscription and be able to cover all of their PCs," he said.

The service is designed to simplify PC maintenance for consumers by combining antivirus, anti-spyware, PC tuning and backup capabilities through one interface. Increasingly analysts and vendors believe this type of integrated service will replace stand-alone antivirus and backup products that are widely used today. "We pull it all together in a super-simple, super-straightfoward user experience," Hall said.

In July of last year, a select group of 20,000 beta testers got a first look at the product. After four months of closed testing, the beta program was opened up in November to anyone interested in trying out OneCare, and there are now "hundreds of thousands" of beta testers, Hall said.

An upcoming revision to the beta code, expected at the end of this month, will include the Windows Defender anti-spyware code. This will be the last major security component to be incorporated into OneCare before its June launch.

Combined services like OneCare have a good chance of succeeding in the $15 billion per year consumer security market, said Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst with the Yankee Group. "It's a good idea," he said. "OneCare was really a market-moving event when it was announced a year ago, because it wasn't obvious these things should be put together."

One contentious issue - Microsoft has yet to announce availability of the OneCare service outside the US.

“Our goal is to begin rolling out the service in beta for other countries beyond the US within the next year. However, we have no additional details to share at this time but will keep you posted as we get closer to availability,” a spokesman said.