Symantec admits it over-hyped Norton 360

update The security vendor had emphasized too much on its next-gen offering, which it says misled people into believing its existing products lack features offered by competitors.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

update With its next-generation security software still yet to be commercially available in the market, Symantec may appear to lag behind its rivals. But a senior executive from the security vendor says that is the result of a "perception gap", created when it drummed up too much publicity for the upcoming product.

Mark Bregman, Symantec's senior vice president and chief evangelist, said: "What we did [was that] we talked about Norton 360, or Genesis (as it was known previously), and we made a lot of publicity about that because it's our next-generation security suite."

First announced in February, Norton 360 was widely seen as a retaliation to Microsoft's security push.

But while OneCare was officially launched on June 1 in the United States, Symantec announced--on the same day--that Norton 360 has been delayed and would make its debut only in the first quarter of 2007. It was originally scheduled for release this September.

McAfee announced in end-May its own offering, aimed squarely at its two key rivals, and formally launched four protection suites worldwide some two months later in early August. The products, however, are not entirely new and feature repackaged tools already found in McAfee's existing range of products. Like Microsoft and Symantec, McAfee's offerings come as a subscription-based service.

With its Norton 360 still commercially unavailable in the market amid the flurry of activity from competitors busy unveiling their own products, Symantec's Bregman acknowledged that his company may appear to be lagging behind.

"We somehow left the wrong impression in the market place that there's Windows Live OneCare from Microsoft, there's Falcon from McAfee, and there's nothing from Symantec," he explained. "But actually, what we have today in the current suite of Norton Internet Security is very competitive with Microsoft Live OneCare or [McAfee's] Falcon."

Bregman said that when the products are lined up and compared feature by feature, Norton Internet Security already offers all the functionalities in its antivirus, antispam, antispyware and firewall capabilities.

"And it's going to get even better as we bring out the next release, Norton 360," he added. "But a lot of people have the impression, because we've talked so much about 360, that all this 'means you must not have anything now'."

"It's a perception gap, and it's probably our fault," he said.

According to Bregman, Symantec's market share has not suffered as a result of Microsoft's challenge.

Windows Live OneCare is currently only available--online and in retail stores--in the United States. When contacted, a Singapore-based spokesperson for Microsoft was unable to say when, or if, the product would be made available in Asia. Microsoft later announced that the beta release of OneCare will be available by year-end in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Bregman said: "OneCare has been out in the United States for about two months, and we're still seeing good uptake of our current products."

However, a new report from The NPD Group suggests Microsoft's entrance did exert market share pressure on the incumbents, particularly Symantec. Its U.S. retail market share in June dropped 10.1 percent from May, while McAfee and Trend Micro slipped 3.3 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, over the same period.

According to the report, Symantec still led the U.S. retail market with a 59.8 percent share of the security product suite segment, while Microsoft shot to second place with a 15.4 percent share. Trend Micro captured 8.9 percent of this market segment, while McAfee garnered a 7.1 percent share. The NPD study does not include sales through Internet service providers and PC-bundling.

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