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Part II: Interview with Symantec CEO Gordon Eubanks

Symantec has traditionally been a company of very diverse interests. How do you outline the company now?

I get this all the time. On the plane somebody asks me who I work for and I say ‘Symantec' and they ‘who?' so I say, ‘You know, Norton' and they say ‘oh yeah, I've heard of Norton'.

Now I just say we're the world's largest supplier of utility software for Microsoft operating systems. We have a core competency in extending operating systems. The specific extensions will change, but that's what we do.

The other thing we have is an incredibly strong brand - Norton, Winfax, the Café line - and a very strong retail presence. Going forward we want to take advantage of this. With IBM and Entrust we are moving to the place where we can offer better solutions to corporate customers. By the end of next year we will supply software on Notes and all IBM's strategic platforms. I don't think it's important to have virus protection on a mainframe but for a mainframe running Notes handling all those messages and attachments, it is. Over the next year we will improve our ability to service corporations. I also think you'll see us do more partnerships. We have some access in bringing the solutions to customers [through IBM channels] and IBM recommends Norton Anti-Virus as its anti-virus of choice. It will be based around our existing business on desktops and servers and integration with broader environments.

The IBM environments you referred to earlier?

That and Microsoft platforms. Not just Anti-Virus and Norton and in the area of troubleshooting, resolving problems on PCs and helpdesk support. How do companies get PCs configured and software loaded on them and how do you maintain that across the network? We'll try and answer some of those questions.

I think we were early in recognising that need. There were things we could have done in developing that product. We weren't in the position to do all the platforms. We felt like we could add more value by narrowing down. The decision to sell to Hewlett-Packard was based on that we wanted someone top take all the customers and employees. Tivoli and CA were in there. It's kind of interesting that when we left off, Network Associates went in there.

A couple of years ago, other companies in the troubleshooting sector would have been seen as Symantec acquisition targets. Do you still see yourselves as an acquisitive company?

I can see us doing acquisitions but over the last two years the emphasis has been on internal growth. There's been massive internal change in the last two years. If you look at the history of countries, they were able to expand either by colonising new territories or going over borders. The people who were able to explore and find new territories did better. The aim is to identify new markets like the British empire did. The British are uniquely good at that.

Few companies are able to go into a sector and drive away competitors. Even Microsoft. Take Money. Better to identify customer needs. That's what we did with Norton Mobile Update and Norton Mobile Essentials.

Java development is a huge growth area. What role do you see Symantec having there?

We're doing a lot of work with Java now. There are a couple of amazing things about Java. The first is that it's not really a desktop opportunity, it's a server opportunity. The second is that Java is more productive than C.

The problem with Java is that it's symbolised as anti-Microsoft. Somehow, if you support Java you're doing them in. we see Java as something as something customers can use ion their servers. Java is very portable and on the server portability is really important. On the desktop side, customers have decided on their operating system and it's Microsoft but on servers you have to support not just Intel but water-cooled Alphas and S/390s... a very wide range of hardware. Java has become the interface to legacy data so you can see where Java becomes incredibly important on the server side. If you look at Cobol and why it became important it's because it became the interface to legacy data and that made it hard to displace. Now Java has become that.

There are tens of thousands of internal applications. At Symantec, we have an internal application that accesses our PeopleSoft HR system, for instance so users can make changes to things like their e-mail addresses.

So what will that mean in concrete product terms?

Two things. Café will be much more aimed at database development on servers, and second, we will augment our products with application specific interfaces. If you look at SAP, PeopleSoft, Baan, Scopus, JD Edwards... there are about 12 companies to cover.

With development tools there are some unique things you have to do such as working with consultancies and teaming with third-parties. Not by creating a 5000-person company but you do have to have consulting services.

So you're adding these interfaces now?

Doing it right now. There's a major release of Café with more support coming this year but we'll get there gradually. That's clearly where we have to go. We're approaching a $600m a year company and one of the things we get out of Java tool devlopment is being able to understand things about our customers we wouldn't have done.

It will be based around our existing business on desktops and servers and integration with broader environments.

That and Microsoft platforms. Not just Anti-Virus and Norton and in the area of troubleshooting, rewsolving problems on PXCs and helpdesk support. How do companies get PCs configured and software looded on them and how do you maintain that across the network.