Global Economics

Symantec's Thompson Speaks Out


John Thompson, CEO of Symantec, has reaffirmed his company's commitment to continue acquiring other businesses and has spoken frankly about past acquisitions, a tough year and Symantec's new position within the industry.

At the heart is a clear message that Symantec is no longer simply a security company and must now battle with the likes of CA, Microsoft and Oracle whereas once it picked its fights among the antivirus community.

"We've not been an antivirus company since 2000," said Thompson, adding that he sees even security as no longer being a catch-all for what his company does. "We are in the protection business. Not like Tony Soprano... but we see a need to move the protection closer to the data."

The highly-publicised purchase of Veritas in December 2004 is central to this repositioning.

"There have been some enormous data breaches over the past 12 months and while that doesn't vindicate the decision to merge with Veritas it does display the need to bring the protection closer to the data."

He admitted that at the time of the Veritas deal a number of investors didn't see the relevance of marrying security and storage but he said he is done trying to convince any remaining doubters whose focus may be more on the numbers than the technology.

"We're focused on executing now. I'm not going to spend any more time trying to pitch the Symantec-Veritas merger," said Thompson, addressing a press round-table at the company's Cupertino headquarters.

He said acquisitions will continue apace alongside a greater focus on in-house development but he said suggestions that another major acquisition may be on the cards are wide of the mark. "I don't envisage Symantec being involved in another Veritas-sized deal any time soon," he said.

Asked what areas may remain on his wish list, Thompson joked: "I want the technology that gives me a monopoly like Microsoft's. But I'd be a much gentler monopoly."

The Redmond giant came in for more stick from Thompson who refuses to admit Microsoft's moves into security have cost him even one hour's sleep, branding it a "Johnny Come-Lately" whose talk is yet to be backed up by any action.

"Let's get OneCare in the marketplace and see how it performs," said Thompson adding Microsoft's easiest wins may be among the 60 per cent or so of users with little or no protection in place. "It's potentially inevitable that Microsoft will get some percentage of the protected base but we stand on our track record and credibility. Microsoft has to build a track record and credibility which is sorely lacking."

"I sleep like a baby," he said. "I only worry about what I can control. I can't control what company A or company B is doing whether it's Microsoft or whoever."

After a year of concern among some factions of company shareholders, Thompson said he still sees strategic mergers and acquisitions, alongside organic growth, as delivering greater value to his investors than a dividend.

As such he said he expects the coming year will see more consolidation, more development and more marketing but nobody holding their breath waiting for a dividend - or a kind word about Microsoft.

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