Symantec Paints Rosy Picture At Analysts Meeting

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In these lean times, analysts conferences aren't the sort of events many people look forward to, least of all the presenting companies. Public companies conduct the shows annually to inform an audience of financial analysts about what their prospects are for the coming year.

Such events obviously haven't been kind to most companies in the past few years, but Symantec is one of the few that can legitimately anticipate a fairly rosy future. The security solutions provider outlined its plans for 2003 last week in San Jose, highlighting its plans to migrate from its longtime consumer-centric focus to becoming a more comprehensive developer of security products and services for consumers, small and midsize businesses, and very large enterprises and organizations.

Symantec is one of the small handful of companies that has announced solid financial results of late. The company is projecting revenue of $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2004, 18 percent more than in 2003, during which time the company "will add revenue equal to the total revenue of most of our competitors," according to one company official. In the Symantec vision, single products are no longer nearly enough to solve current security needs. Instead, broad, proactive solutions and strategies are needed. Symantec president and COO John Schwarz, for one, said his company couldn't stop the proliferation of the SQL Slammer virus, although his company responded well to the threat. "Our response time can't be replicated by any other company in the marketplace, but 250,000 machines still were affected," he says. "This showed us that single products are not enough; multipoint and multi-layered solutions and services are needed to help customers implement the required levels of security."

PricewaterhouseCoopers is helping with this implementation. The Symantec partner uses the company's technology in a variety of projects, solving existing and emerging problems like vulnerability detection. "The question is how to bring the right products together to solve the problem. It's one thing to ID a fix, but it's another to push the fix out," says Joe Duffy, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers' security practice. "Fundamental problems are not solved by point products; we need a broad security architecture provided by a company that can deliver over the long haul."

This becomes more crucial as the face of hackers--and the nature of what they hack--begins changing. Symantec vice president and chief technologist Rob Clyde says most of the most damaging viruses the Internet has seen so far were triggered by kids, amateur programmers who were merely joyriding with no particular targets in mind. But future hackers, Clyde says, will be better financed with specific targets in mind and will shift attacks from localize short-term destruction to trying to cause major network mayhem.

To combat this, Symantec has numerous products in the pipeline, most of which will roll out in 2003. These include client compliance solutions to provide more proactive security updates and patches; router throttling, which moves packets more slowly, making it easier to respond to a threat; adaptive management and lockdown tools; and new products directed at Web services. Symantec executive vice president of product delivery and response Gail Hamilton says the company plans to extend its server security line, create more integrated applications and scalable management and even reduce prices in 2003. "Our mission is to help our customers optimize control while minimizing complexity," Hamilton says. Driving home the pricing message was Symantec chairman and CEO John Thompson, who says that while the company has raised some price points in the consumer area over the past few years, the overall environment is stable. "There's been increased pricing pressure in the intrusion detection space, but there's no reason for us to lose on price," he says. "We choose to win on the relationships and technologies we bring to market."

On the reseller front, senior vice president of global sales Dieter Giesbrecht said channel sales had increased by 34 percent in 2002 and that two-thirds of the channel team is focused on developing business with value-added partners. He also reiterated Symantec's past message, that while VARs are a key component to its strategy, the company will not hesitate to make reseller changes where necessary. "Our partner program is recognized as one of the best in the industry. We have a very close community relationship with our partners; they're part of the Symantec family," he says. "But we're very strict in our training and certification to make sure we're getting the right partners, and we weed out the ones who don't deliver." Among the partner initiatives slated for 2003 will be recruiting new VARs only in areas where the company doesn't already have a desired geographical or vertical industry presence, and extending the company's CRM to include more of the company's partners.

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