Symantec CEO: 'We'll absolutely have a Norton brand'

Symantec has commenced with a massive reorganization, saying it will end the internal separation that's traditionally been made in security software development done in the Norton consumer division and its enterprise product lines. But that doesn't mean Symantec's Norton brand is going to disappear, according to Symantec CEO Steve Bennett.

Bennett last week joined with his executive team to share with Wall Street analysts the significant changes being made at the $6.8 billion company with the hope that it will lead to a raft of new products and services, especially those aimed at supporting the cloud and mobile. At one point, Bennett said that the division between the consumer and business product sides of the house were now effectively gone, and "we don't have a consumer business anymore." But in an interview later to further discuss the reorganization with Network World, Bennett emphasized that this in no way means that Symantec might abandon the consumer market or its well-known Norton brand.

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"We'll absolutely have a Norton brand," he said. Bennett added that it's possible the Norton brand may grow to include more products intended for the small office/home office. What Symantec wants to do in its internal reorg is to break down the deeply ingrained "silos" of activity in engineering and marketing that kept the consumer-products side so separate from the business-products side. It was "almost as if they were separate companies," he said.

Bennett took the helm of Symantec last July following the decision by the board of directors that Enrique Salem, who served as CEO for three years, should step down. Bennett, who had served as chairman on that board, was previously president and CEO of Intuit from 2000 through 2007 and had a long career as an executive at GE. Symantec has officially given no specific reason for Salem's forced departure other than vaguely remarking that discontent had built up over some time. During last week's Wall Street presentation, both Bennett and Francis deSouza, now Symantec president of products and services, evidenced considerable frustration about Symantec's stature in the market, vowing much more could be achieved through organizational change and a buildup in engineering and research and development.

After months of consideration and review about these questions and others after Bennett became CEO, Symantec's executive team decided it needed to take steps like tearing down divisions between the consumer and business sides, despite what's certain to be internal upheaval as sales and marketing staff are laid off. Behind the decision for the reorganization are sentiments that the world has changed -- that consumers buy mobile smartphones and tablets that they're now often allowed to use in business, and businesses are turning to cloud-based services.

"It's now about protecting the information and the person wherever they are, the identity, authentication and backup," said Bennett. The world of mobile and cloud computing add to an ecosphere that was once mostly seen as the eternally attacked Windows PC and the job of trying to keep hackers at bay. And the new attack cycles are now measured in minutes, not days, Bennett pointed out.

The driving emphasis at Symantec will be in 10 main areas of product and service development, with Mobile Workforce Productivity and Business Continuity named as two main categories where Symantec -- the market leader in endpoint protection that has been largely PC-oriented for a long time -- will seek to prove it can lead in a changing world. "The core of where we're going is so radically different," said Bennett.

Symantec is also pondering its worldview in other ways. When asked why Symantec ended its three-year joint-venture relationship with China-based manufacturer Huawei in late 2011, Bennett said the core reason wasn't because of all the anti-Huawei sentiment reverberating in U.S. political circles or that suspicions that China was hacking into U.S. enterprise and government was almost daily fare in news reports. Rather, says Bennett, it's simply that it was hard to make the 49%/51% joint partnership work. "Huawei had different goals and approach than we had," said Bennett, who praised his predecessor Salem for negotiating a graceful exit with Huawei that he says benefited both companies.

But Symantec needs to have a strategy for China, he said. "China is a big market and growing. We have engineering resources in China. We need to figure out how to win in China and build products in China." He pointed out these kind of issues goes to a core identity problem that Symantec is now tackling, the sense that it's been a U.S.-based company with U.S. distribution practices that needs to grow to feel much more global in scope.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email:

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Tags business issuessymanteccorporate issuesnortonrestructuringSymantec ChinaSymantec NortonSymantec layoffsSymantec HuaweiSteve Bennett Symantec CEO

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