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Symantec Spells Out Answers To Microsoft

Symantec spells out how it will compete with Microsoft for consumers' security business, but again declines to promise that its by-subscription security service will be available this year.
Symantec on Thursday laid out how it will compete with Microsoft for consumers' security business, but again wouldn't promise that its by-subscription security service would be available this year.

As part of a day-long briefing of financial analysts, Symantec's consumer group chief, Enrique Salem, detailed both stop-gap and long-term product plans to stay ahead of Microsoft, which this week entered the consumer security market with a $49.95 per year Windows Live OneCare service.

Salem said that Symantec's answer, once code named Genesis, but on Wednesday renamed "Norton 360," would go into beta testing next month, first in a limited, managed roll-out, then in a widespread format that would be open to the public.

But he didn't promise that 360 would hit the shelves or be available for download by the end of 2006.

"We're currently targeting code availability in early Q4," said Salem, "but it's not about when the code is ready. It's about when the code is ready for the marketplace."

Symantec will decide when to roll out Norton 360, Salem added, based on the feedback it receives both from customers and from partners. Last month, company chief executive John Thompson said that 360 might be pushed back to give the annual refreshes of Symantec's current consumer line -- Norton Internet Security and Norton AntiVirus in particular -- selling space.

The only commitment Symantec has made to a 360 timetable is to promise that it will be released before the end of the company's fiscal year, which comes to a close March 31, 2007.

"The feedback we get will dictate our moves," Salem reiterated.

Norton 360 will include anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing, and anti-keylogger protection, as well as a personal firewall, PC tune-up utilities, local and online backup, and Web site authentication tools.

Salem wouldn't pin down a price for the service, but several times mentioned the $40-60 annual spread that Symantec's research says families are willing to spend for a complete PC protection solution. Microsoft's OneCare, which Salem slammed several times in his presentation as inadequate and incomplete, is priced at $49.95 per year for a 3-PC license.

Although 360 is the long-range solution to consumers' security problems -- "Every consumer should have 360 on their machine, that's the one product they need," Salem said in a Q&A -- Symantec has to make money this year, so it's again updating its warhorses and introducing a new product.

"Norton Confidential is an entry into a whole new category [of security software]," Salem said. "Transaction security that protects people during transactions and interactions on the Internet."

Confidential, which was formerly code named "Voyager," will release this fall along with 2007 editions of Norton Internet Security (NIS) and Norton AntiVirus (NAV). NIS, said Salem, currently accounts for more than half of Symantec's consumer software sales. Typically, Symantec refreshes NIS and NAV in September or October each year.

The new product will provide anti-phishing capabilities provided by technology from WholeSecurity, which Symantec acquired in 2005; authentication of trusted sites that will include support of high assurance digital certificates when they become available; "crimeware" protection that detects and deletes keyloggers; and a password/PIN/credit card number manager.

"This is the only product on the market that combines all these elements," said Salem.

But it's only a short-term solution. "Confidential is a stop-gap [aimed at] our installed base," he said.

Even so, Salem said that Symantec's existing product line -- in conjunction with Norton Confidential -- can handle the competition from Microsoft. "I expect that they'll [Microsoft] compete directly [against us], but we'll stay ahead of them with Norton Internet Security 2007."

Salem also ran off a list of revenue-generating initiatives that he said would pump up the consumer group's bottom line, including multi-year licenses for product updates, automatic renewal of product updates, a customer-specific identifier dubbed "Norton ID," a drive to shift customers toward more self-service support, and a push to outsource more development offshore.

He also promised Symantec would defend its security turf, and compete wherever necessary to stay in the top spot.

"Anyplace people want to buy security, we'll be there."