Microsoft And Symantec Trade Jabs At RSA Show

Following a Tuesday morning keynote in which Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates promised to release a more secure version of Internet Explorer independent of Windows, Symantec CEO John Thompson took the stage and challenged Microsoft to a "horse race," assailing the software giant's most recent efforts to secure its software platform.

Thompson noted that a cross-platform solution is necessary to help disparate enterprises handle compliance and other security issues, and said Microsoft's strategy fails because it does not address security across more than one platform.


RSA Conference debuts:


>> VeriSign launches authentication token to compete with RSA.
>> CA upgrades eTrust Identity and Access Management Suite.
>> Symantec revs up flagship antivirus software.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec, through its line of integrated security appliances, tackles security across a variety of environments, he said.

"We aren't distracted by a host of computer games and other computer-related stuff going on," Thompson said, referring to Microsoft's raft of digital media and gaming products.

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The two companies, once close allies, now find themselves at opposite ends of the desktop security landscape. Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., upped the ante earlier this month with plans to acquire e-mail security vendor Sybari, East Northport, N.Y., and compete directly with Symantec for desktop security dollars.

"We think about [security] as the concerns around trustworthy computing," Gates said. "Everything from privacy to keeping documents confidential [to] a broad range of things we need to make sure are kept to a minimum and won't hold us back from taking advantage of the Internet."

Solution providers said the market-share battle has only begun.

"Symantec should worry, not because Microsoft is good at anything they do but because they are ubiquitous," said Babak Pasdar, founder and CTO of IGX Global, Hackensack, N.J. "This is Microsoft doing what any 800-pound gorilla does: waiting for an industry to mature and be in demand, then trying to own it."

ELIZABETH MONTALBANO contributed to this story.