Microsoft announced the immediate availability of a beta version of its next Security Essentials product, which provides free antivirus and anti-malware functionality to Windows and is aimed at individuals and home-based businesses. Additionally, the company released a beta version of its business-oriented Forefront Endpoint Protection (FEP) 2010, which will replace Forefront Client Security.

You can download the Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) 2 beta from the Microsoft Connect website. It provides an early look at new functionality, including Windows Firewall integration; Internet Explorer (IE) integration for protection against web-based threats; an updated anti-malware engine with better detection, cleanup, and performance; and new protections against network-based exploits. In use, MSE 2 looks and works a lot like its predecessor.

Meanwhile, the FEP public beta is now built on System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 R2, Microsoft says, allowing customers to use their existing client-management infrastructure to deploy and manage endpoint protection. Roughly analogous to MSE 2 from a functional standpoint, FEP provides a new antivirus engine, new behavior threat detection capabilities, Windows Firewall management capabilities, and dynamic signature updating. Pricing and licensing will be announced at a later date, but Microsoft expects to ship the final version by the end of 2010. Those interested in testing the FEP public beta should visit the TechNet Evaluation Center.