At long last Symantec is to bring out a service-based PC security package. I've never understood why the PC security vendors — and Symantec in particular — have persisted in selling their anti-virus, firewall and anti-spyware products as packaged software. Why on earth in this day and age are we still asking users to initiate and install the sometimes daily downloads and updates that are required to keep such software up-to-date, when the PC can do all of that automatically? It's just crazy.
I've been a long-term user of McAfee's on-demand service, which launched I think as long ago as 1999,Doh! Of course that's what users want! and I can't imagine any other way of keeping my PC continuously protected against virus threats. The McAfee service automatically checks for updates and downloads them in background without me having to lift a finger (literally). The only time I have to get involved is when there's an update that requires a system reboot. Otherwise the only time I notice it is when I turn on in the morning and my reboot is slower because the automatic update process is doing a download and install of some new virus information. Even my annual renewal is automated.
Now Symantec is to bring out a similar service, currently codenamed Genesis. Genesis is the company's first product to be delivered as a service from the "get go," director of product management Tom Powledge told The Street's reporter. "It's designed for users who want us to take on and solve the security problem for them with minimal user intervention," he says. Doh! Of course that's what we want, Tom. Did you imagine we actually enjoy faffing about with all your downloads and pull-downs and submit buttons? It's your technology, you take care of it!
Scheduled for release in the fall, Genesis will go further than competitor McAfee's current offerings with the addition of online backup (following Symantec's acquisiton of Veritas last year) and new technology to guard against "crimeware" threats such as keystroke loggers. From Symantec's press release:
"Genesis will seamlessly integrate Norton's best-of-breed, market leading security and PC tuneup technologies; incorporate online backup, and introduce innovative patent-pending technology for protection from the new-class of Internet threats: crimeware, phishing scams and fraudulent websites."
This type of application suite is a special subset of software-as-a-service, in which the software is installed and run locally, but automatically maintained and updated from the provider's central servers. It's an example of the 'serviced client' that I included as one of the layers in What to expect from Web 3.0. The move to on-demand applications won't mean we'll all end up using cut-down clients or Web appliances. We'll still expect a lot of local power and functionality — but we'll expect the network to manage it for us. Security services packages like Symantec's planned Genesis service or McAfee's existing SecurityCenter offering will be an essential component of that serviced client.