Late last year, Microsoft promised that we'd all be getting free antivirus around the middle of 2009. Right on schedule, it appears that it's nearly here.

Microsoft is preparing to unveil a free anti-virus product, that'll be appearing in a beta form "soon". Sadly there's no more specific date than that.

The service is codenamed "Morro", after Brazil's Morro de Sao Paolo beach. Analysts reckon it'll hurt sales of Symantec and McAfee products, companies already stung by other free antivirus like Avast and AVG.

Microsoft has said that Morro will offer a very basic level of protection against a wide range of viruses. It won't offer the encryption, firewalls, password storage, parental controls and backup services that high end security software includes.

Microsoft tried to launch its own paid-for antivirus a few years back, called OneCare. In November, it announced that it would be discontinuing that product.