Symantec Readies One-Stop Shop

The security-software maker will offer an all-in-one service to ward off viruses and identity theft.
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Symantec

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announced Tuesday that it will offer a new "all in one" application to thwart malicious viruses, spyware and identity theft on Tuesday, and analysts see the move as a good one for the company -- and for consumers who pay little mind to securing their home computers.

Code-named Genesis, the product is billed as a service rather than as stand-alone software, and will be released this fall.

"It will deliver a comprehensive, all-in-one service to keep your PC secure," says Tom Powledge, director of product management for the company. "It's designed for users who want us to take on and solve the security problem for them with minimal user intervention."

Powledge says Genesis is Symantec's answer to the changing security landscape. In the past, he says, unscrupulous programmers focused on releasing worms and viruses to get notoriety in the hacker community. But now, the stakes are higher, with organized groups focusing on stealing personal information, like credit card numbers, or whole identities, for financial gain.

Symantec's move from selling software to services represents a growing trend throughout the industry -- meaning that if a user has a valid subscription, they will get any security upgrades on an ongoing basis. Genesis is the company's first product to be delivered as a service from the "get go," Powledge says.

(The company will continue to offer Norton AntiVirus and other products for those who prefer the stand-alone options.)

Genesis combines four components, including the system security provided by Norton AntiVirus products and "transaction security," which offers protection from keystroke loggers, spyware applications and phishing, among other malicious tools of online fraud. In addition, it protects digital photos and music and offers customer support through chat, email or phone.

Pricing has yet to be announced, Powledge says.

Analysts agreed it was a positive step for the company.

Symantec "needed to do something like this to rejuvenate their antivirus line." said Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst at the Yankee Group. "Their existing antivirus product is really big, kind of bloated, runs slowly and consumes resources on PCs."

He says it's good to see Symantec integrate elements of Veritas' back-up technology, and says it "will be similar and probably better than what

Microsoft

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provides." Microsoft's OneCare, which also provides PC users with security, file backups and maintenance, is currently in beta.

Symantec and Veritas merged last year, but concerns about the companies' integration have kept a lid on the company's stock, which has been unable to crack $20 for more than three months. (The stock was recently trading at $17.20.) A selloff of the shares

began in early November, when, in addition to issuing disappointing December-quarter guidance, Symantec posted less-than-stellar results in its new storage division.

Selling Genesis as a service also gives the company better recurring revenue traction with consumers, Jaquith says. Just selling the software doesn't guarantee that customers will buy the updates. Genesis should make it easier for people to buy and renew security for their PCs.

Symantec should also benefit from the efficiency bonus for customers, analysts say.

"At the end of the day, people want one place to go and get everything to make sure that their PC is secured and backed up," says Rob Breza, director of security and infrastructure software at RBC Capital Markets, who rates the company outperform and does not have a financial interest in the company. "I definitely see a need for those services wrapped around a trusted brand name."

"I would probably be a good candidate for it," Breza says.

Breza also pointed out that over time, product sets of software move toward suites, and security and back-up also move toward suites, so consolidating the elements into one application makes sense.

Still, "I think the market right now will look at it and take a wait-and-see" approach, Breza says. "We don't have pricing; we don't know how they're going to market it."