Symantec CEO: Microsoft causing security price pressure

Symantec CEO John Thompson blames Microsoft for price competition in the consumer security market.

Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson blamed Microsoft Tuesday for the current pricing competition his company faces in the consumer security market, suggesting Microsoft's pricing scheme for its first entry into the space is "monopolistic."

Speaking at the offices of the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York, Thompson said Microsoft's decision last year to offer Windows Live OneCare, a service that combines firewall, antivirus and backup capabilities, for US$49.95 per year for three PCs "clearly recast prior expectations for consumer security technology."

"I don't want to say it was monopolistic, but it looked that way to some of us," Thompson said.

Symantec released Norton 360, its competitor Windows Live OneCare, last March, but the product -- at US$79.99 for three PCs -- costs more than Windows Live OneCare, but has the benefit of more features and Symantec's experience in security going for it.

Using competitive pricing to try to get a leg up in a market where a company is weak is a common practice, and Symantec is no stranger to such pricing storms, Thompson said. "We have seen a continued focus on price competition in some markets and some channels," he said.

To say Microsoft has a long way to go before it can compete with the breadth of products Symantec has in the consumer and enterprise spaces is an understatement. Microsoft executives have acknowledged that the company took its time in realizing the importance of security, but they are now determined to give Symantec and McAfee a run for their money with offerings like OneCare and the Forefront security line. Still, there is wide agreement that any serious heat from Microsoft in security is several years off, if not more.

Thompson said Tuesday that his company is well-prepared to evolve with the industry and new competitors. As part of this evolution, Symantec plans to unveil its first software-as-a-service option this year, a backup service for SMBs called the Symantec Protection Network. That service will be rolled out in conjunction with the next version of its Backup Exec software.

"We've reinvented ourselves in the past, and we'll probably reinvent ourselves if not one more time than at least two more times" to keep up with industry changes, Thompson said.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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