Tuesday, March 14, 2006; 12:11 AM
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. <MSFT.O> said on Monday it plans to include a free service to help parents control and monitor what their children are doing online in its upcoming Windows Live offering of Web services.
The monitoring of children online has become a hot-button subject due to a nationwide string of cases involving adult sexual predators using virtual-communities on the Internet like MySpace.com to meet child victims.
Windows Live is part of Microsoft's strategy to consolidate a range of Web services -- e-mail, instant messaging, online PC security and blogs -- to compete with Google Inc. <GOOG.O> and Yahoo Inc. <YHOO.O> for Internet advertising dollars.
Windows Live is being tested now and will launch sometime in the second half of 2006.
Microsoft plans to roll out Windows Live Family Safety Settings in the summer, which will allow parents to filter Web sites and receive reports to see what their children are doing online.
The company also plans to eventually allow parents to control who communicates with their children over e-mail, instant messaging and in their blogs.
Such software already exists as part of bundled PC security offerings from Trend Micro Inc. <TMIC.O>, Symantec Corp. <SYMC.O> and McAfee Inc. <MFE.N> and stand-alone products from CyberPatrol and NetNanny, owned by LookSmart Ltd. <LOOK.O>
The software giant already offers a similar service under its subscription-based MSN premium, but Microsoft said customers are increasingly asking for the service to be free.
Microsoft said while parents often say they want to monitor their child's activities online, they are often put off by the amount of work and sometimes complexity involved in the process.
The company aims to simplify the process by allowing a parent, or administrator, to monitor every family member's Web activities within Windows Live. The service is only available for certain versions of Windows XP Service Pack 2 and will be compatible with the upcoming Windows Vista operating system.