Symantec CEO Brings Up the Dreaded 'M' Word in Microsoft Critique

Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson is no doubt a capable guy. But it seems like he's spent more time in the past year complaining about Microsoft and its latest OS release, Windows Vista, than promoting his own products. Mr. Thompson has been a constant and high profile thorn in Microsoft's side during this time period. But this week, he raised the dreaded "m" word--monopoly--bringing his charges to a whole new level.

Appearing at the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York this week, Thompson discussed Microsoft's recent foray into the client security market with its Windows Live OneCare subscription suite. Thanks to its low price and wide set of features, many of which deal with PC maintenance rather than security, OneCare has changed the way that consumers and security providers think about such software.

"I don't want to say \[OneCare\] was monopolistic, but it looked that way to some of us," Thompson said. The charge, of course, is that Microsoft now sells both the software that is vulnerable--Windows--and the software that protects against those vulnerabilities. Previous to the release of OneCare, Symantec faced only a few major competitors as well as a host of smaller, less capable companies.

Thompson also offered a small complement for Microsoft and OneCare, noting that the software giant's new security service has "clearly recast prior expectations for consumer security technology." Indeed, Symantec has responded to the OneCare threat with its own product, Norton 360, which is surprisingly similar to OneCare, as it provides both PC security and maintenance functionality. Norton 360, however, is quite a bit more expensive than OneCare, and Thompson's monopoly charge against Microsoft no doubt includes what he sees as OneCare's predatory pricing.

Thompson was in New York to celebrate the release of Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2008 and Norton Antivirus 2008 products. In addition to his anti-Microsoft volley and these new products, Thompson revealed that Symantec doesn't plan any major acquisitions of the scale of the company's 2005 purchase of Veritas for $10 billion. That said, Thompson said he has no problem changing the company or its products in major ways to meet the needs of a changing market.

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