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McAfee, Symantec Prepare for Next Battle

The companies will compete with centralized software offerings.

The competition between security software rivals

McAfee

(MFE)

and

Symantec

(SYMC) - Get Report

is about to heat up with the two companies readying their assaults on business customers.

On Monday, McAfee released a new version of its popular ePolicy Orchestrator software, which offers a centralized management console to IT managers. The company calls the offering its most significant update in terms of size and investment.

"ePO is the backbone of our security and risk management strategies for businesses," says Christopher Bolin, chief technology officer of McAfee.

Meanwhile, Symantec plans to launch its competing product, Symantec Endpoint Protection, later this month, setting the stage for a new round of price discounts and incentives to get customers on board.

So far, Santa Clara, Calif.-based McAfee is seen as leading the battle. ePolicy Orchestrator has been regarded as McAfee's secret sauce, letting companies centrally manage security and compliance products from multiple vendors, which simplifies IT management and leads to greater cost savings.

"Customers are demanding unified, easier-to-update and easier-to-manage products from companies," says Nick Selby, a senior analyst with independent research firm 451 Group.

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McAfee's ePO product is used by more than 30,000 customers with three out of four

Fortune

2000 companies using a version of EPO, says Christopher Bolin, chief technology officer for McAfee.

"We are building on a lot of momentum," he says.

Investors have also been favoring McAfee this year. Its stock is up nearly 22% this year while Symantec is down 9%.

That's why Symantec, which has long been knocked for its inability to integrate its various acquisitions closely and simplify operations for security managers, is taking a shot at the market with its own offering, Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0.

The software, also known as Project Hamlet, will

bring together technologies from Symantec's acquisitions from the last two years -- including its purchase of WholeSecurity, Veritas and Sygate -- and meld components such as antivirus, network intrusion prevention, firewall and compliance-related products into a single package.

Still, given McAfee's lead, Symantec's offering may not be enough to get customers to choose it over its rivals, says Selby.

However, Symantec has created a strategy to get ahead. The company is planning to give its existing customers who use its enterprise antivirus and firewall protection software a free upgrade to its latest product.

"We are not just bringing the idea of a centralized console to customers but we are including all the latest technologies in a single product so customers don't have to spend extra money to buy the bells and whistles they need," says C. J. Desai, senior director of endpoint security for Symantec.

Shares of Symantec were recently off 11 cents to $19.55; McAfee was off 27 cents, or 0.8%, to $35.48.