Part I: Interview with Symantec CEO Gordon Eubanks

Symantec CEO and chairman Gordon Eubanks met with Martin Veitch this week near London to discuss his ambitions for the enterprise, Win 98 and the case against Microsoft.

ZDNet News: As a maker of utilities, you must be pretty familiar with Windows 98 development. What are the opportunities there for you or have OSes become so feature-packed that the opportunities are getting less?

Eubanks: Windows 98 is so similar to 95 that opportunities are pretty much the same. Right now all products we have work on 98 and add value in the same way. At the same time, I don't think operating systems are making any dent [in the utilities field]. The key features in Windows 98 are really things like integration with the Internet and Microsoft Update, which I think is a really brilliant feature. Performance is increased significantly.

What's your take on the regulatory actions against Microsoft?

I think Microsoft has the right to extend the operating system and add new features. What's best in this business is that innovation pays off. I don't think litigation is the right way to react and I think attempts to stop Windows 98 being released were misguided. I think the case will drag on for a long time and nothing will happen in the short-term.

The recent deal with IBM gives you access to its virus immunity software and IBM anti-virus users. How does it change the landscape?

For us it's a great opportunity to get a large customer base and work with great technology. The immune system technology they've been developing can really change the response to viruses. It's built on neural network technology they've been working on for years. The gist of it is that when an unknown threat is detected, the cure is sent back to the customer and to all other customers. It provides an ability to automate what currently is done manually.

Does that mean a change to the way anti-virus software is released?

There'll still be the need for virus definitions. You'll still want to provide that worldwide to all the customers. We've gone to weekly updates instead of monthly, like our rivals, but we've had a single engine across platforms for some time. Every time there's a new virus found there's a great amount of press and other attention. The difference is when we have a remedy it works on the DOS scanner, NT and other platforms at the same time. If you look at our competitors that's not the case. Most people don't update the DOS scanner, they rely on the automatic background detection [that's not updated]. We're also working on new technology to deliver the update so it's smaller, where we just ship the new patterns through [automatic Internet download system] Live Update.

Your old rival McAfee, now Network Associates, has moved towards a broader concept of security. Did you consider the same route?

We looked hard at that strategy and decided to go in a different direction. They've decided to compete with IBM and Computer Associates. Our view has been to look at where we have significant technology leads and partner. We're working with [IBM-Lotus] on Tivoli and on Notes on Norton Anti-Virus, for example.

In this area what customers want is based on standards. If you look at Network Associates, PGP is totally proprietary and they really don't have a standards-based solution, whereas we're working in partnership with IBM and Entrust [Technologies, public key management company]. You can't have security without public keys and the IBM and Entrust public key infrastructure is steeped in standards. In the long run, that's how things will come together. You need a scalable, standards-based PKI.