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Traditionally, Symantec has been a consumer-focused company. That has changed with the acquisition of Veritas. Was that in anticipation of more competition on the consumer side of your business?
Thompson: Not per se. It was all about our desire that dates back to my arrival at Symantec seven years ago to remix our books of business, having it mirror the market. In the world of software, two-thirds to three-quarters of all spending is done by large corporate and government buyers and the remainder is done by consumers and small businesses.
Video: Symantec's relevance in a Microsoft world
Diversity is key to a secure infrastructure, Thompson says at a Gartner event.
If you are disproportionately weighed to one segment of the market versus the other, you have the opportunity to do very well or very poorly. If you were more evenly distributed, you have an opportunity to handle the ups and downs much better.
Becoming an enterprise-focused company hasn't been easy. Last week, you acknowledged that there is some trouble with customer support for a former Veritas product. Are these just teething problems?
Thompson: That issue is specific to a brand-new product, one Veritas acquired just before our acquisition of Veritas. It was a small company that built a market-leading product for e-mail archiving. Once we put it into the larger Veritas and Symantec sales force, sales took off. Sales grew faster than our ability to scale up and train up our support organization. We have had a few issues in some markets. Those will be addressed.
That has nothing to do with bringing Symantec and Veritas together. It is unique and specific to one product area that has had phenomenal success in the marketplace. I'd love to have that problem a few times more, quite frankly.
So you would say that becoming more of an enterprise-focused company hasn't been hard for you?
Thompson: You don't take a company like Symantec through such a significant transformation without there being some challenges or pains. Seven years ago, we were a $632 million, consumer-focused company. Today we're a $5 billion, fourth-largest software company in the world, with a very diverse product set with leadership capabilities in all of the segments that we play in. I think that has been a pretty remarkable transformation for this company.
At the Gartner event on Wednesday, Symantec customers were asked if they see synergies between Symantec and Veritas. There was only one. Did that shock you or worry you?
Thompson: I was quite surprised. Since we closed the transaction in July of 2005, I have spent a considerable amount of time on the road with customers, talking about the Symantec-Veritas merger. While it certainly caught people by surprise in late 2004 and early 2005, as time has gone on, customers have started to say, "Gee I can see the relevance of bringing these things together."
So such a muted response surprised me. We have to execute to be vindicated. I am not concerned about that. I think the strategic intent of our company is spot on with where the markets are going. It may take some people time to catch up with our thinking, but that's OK; we're patient.
Where do you see prices for security products headed?
Thompson: It is clear that as markets mature, prices weaken. And clearly certain segments of the security market, not all, are starting to mature. We talked two or three quarters ago about weakness in price in our core antivirus business. Interestingly, it would appear that during the most recent quarter, prices there have stabilized.
Now, as Microsoft enters the market, it will be interesting to see what the price dynamics become. Microsoft has a formidable franchise in Windows, and they have a formidable marketing capability. I am sure that they will use both of those in an effective way. As long as they are fair, we believe they can compete and win.
You have talked about playing fair before and that you won't go "whine" to the regulators or sue Microsoft. Is there a certain line that Microsoft should not cross that might change your mind?
Thompson: We haven't done some magic, game-theory approach that says if Microsoft does this, we're going to do that. We're worried about running our business in the best way we know how to. Obviously we have one eye on the market and another eye on all of the competitors in the market, and Microsoft is one of them.
I'd rather compete with Microsoft's products than with Microsoft's PR. All we have been doing for the last two or three years is competing with their communications machine. Once they get a product in the market, we'll see just how good they are and we are.
Where do you see Symantec and yourself five years from now?
Thompson: I could envision Symantec being twice the size, a software company that is $10 billion in scale, 30,000 employees around the world, 8,000 people in engineering, a large percentage of that staff globally distributed, a sales and marketing engine, and a powerful brand that is recognized as one of the true leaders in the tech industry.
As far as I am concerned, I love what I am doing. I am having a wonderful time. We've got a great team of young executives that work with me, and hopefully we will all still be here together five years from now.
And your flagship products then will be?
Thompson: I don't think you will see us stray too far from the core roots of protection--protecting the infrastructure, protecting the information, and increasingly protecting the interactions individuals and enterprises have as they operate in the digital world.
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