McAfee next month plans to start shipping all-in-one desktop security agent software that is expected to cost businesses half as much as buying the company's anti-virus, anti-spyware and intrusion-prevention products individually.Analysts say McAfee is trying to gain clout in the emerging anti-spyware market in advance of its chief competitors, Symantecand Trend Micro, and before Microsoft gets a foothold in anti-virus and anti-spyware later this year with its Vista operating system."The ambiguity between anti-virus and anti-spyware is forcing everyone to rethink what's going on," says Pete Lindstrom, research director at Spire Security. He says consolidating functionality into a single agent should ease management for customers."It definitely sounds like a good idea, says Dan Lukas, lead security architect at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, about McAfee's plans. Picking the best of breed from separate vendors and trying to manage it all can be a problem, he says.McAfee's single-agent software (now called Security Agent, though sources say that could change) is built on top of a new version of McAfee's ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) management client. The agent includes anti-spam and desktop firewall.Pricing is targeted at $77 per user for 1,000 nodes in a package that includes the ePO management console and anti-spam and anti-virus gateways. McAfee will make other packages for small to midsize businesses and enterprises available, with the most basic starting at $30 per user for 50 nodes.Eric Winsborrow, vice president of product marketing at McAfee, says the company will continue to sell stand-alone versions of its desktop anti-virus, anti-spyware, intrusion-prevention and other security products, if customers insist.But McAfee is confident its gamble on a consolidated desktop agent at a reduced price will be preferred by most businesses. "Chief security officers just don't want more agents to deploy," he says.Acquisition hungerSeparately, McAfee CEO George Samenuk last week said the vendor is on the prowl to buy security companies with technology that can be quickly integrated with McAfee's products. Areas of interest include wireless security and safer Internet surfing for users. The acquisitions will be wholly in cash, and the deal sizes could range from $20 million to $500 million, said Samenuk, who added that the company has more than $1.2 billion in cash and is debt-free.IDG News Service contributed to this report.