The company will start testing its ZoneAlarm Internet security product publicly beginning Friday, with a final release planned next month.
The ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7.0, which combines antivirus, antispyware and firewall technologies into a single box, is squarely up against
( MFE) in a hotly contested market.
In June, Microsoft entered the segment with Windows OneCare, its antivirus and PC backup tool. McAfee followed that with Falcon, its answer to OneCare, and last month,
launched its own upgraded consumer Internet security product.
Symantec, however, is still testing its version called Norton 360 and will ship it at the end of March next year.
"The industry is in a significant state of flux now," says Laura Yecies, vice president and general manager of Check Point's consumer division. "With the release of Microsoft's Vista operating system, we expect the level of hacking to go up greatly and see more security threats for the PC."
Check Point, whose ZoneAlarm product has been around for two years, currently ranks No. 6 in the market, says research firm NPD Group, behind Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro,
and even six-month-old entrant Microsoft.
Shares of Check Point closed at $22.40, up 21 cents, on Thursday. The Ramat Gan, Israel, company's stock has been up 18.5% in six months.
One reason why Check Point, which specializes in firewalls and network security products for businesses, is trying to make a play for this crowded consumer space could be the growth in the retail security software business. Sales of all PC software in the retail channel declined by 1% for the five-year period from 2000 to 2005.
But during the same period, security software grew at 34.1%. Contrast that with sales of education software, which declined 23.7% during that time.
"The security pie is getting bigger, and that's why a lot of vendors are trying to come in," says Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis at NPD. "With the growth in spyware threats and spam, people are rushing to get solutions at the retail and enterprise level."
Check Point, though, hasn't been able to cash in there. The company has only about 2.4% market share in the retail security segment, according to NPD.
Check Point says it is counting on the more sophisticated technology, including improved firewall, identity theft protection and parental controls to attract users to its latest offering. The company has also switched loyalties from CA to the private firm Kaspersky Lab for the antivirus engine that powers the product.
ZoneAlarm, which was once vilified for the large number of alerts it bombarded users with, will also now have an auto-learn mode that automatically configures security settings on the basis of the user's unique PC environment and behavior, says Yeices.