Vincent Steckler

20 July 2009

Is it the Seven Dwarfs or the 3 Kings?

A friend of mine in the US sent me this article from the New York Times the other day http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/06/technology/business-computing/06virus.html?_r=1

It is basically an article about the “big guys” in the PC security business boasting about how good and how big the antivirus and consumer security business is. A lot of the article talks about the business aspects of working with computer manufacturers (OEMs) in pre-installing consumer security products on new PCs. There is some good stuff (and some stuff that is wrong) in this article about the OEM business and I will talk about that in another entry.

But, there is a great quote in the article. The Symantec CEO, Enrique Salem, describes the consumer security/antivirus business as “Symantec and the seven dwarfs”. And the McAfee CFO describes the consumer security business “as like an arms race”. Now I know Enrique and he is a great guy and knows security and the security business inside and out. And if I was still at Symantec, maybe I would have said the same thing. It is a great quote. But is it true?

Clearly Symantec is the largest by far in terms of revenue. Heck, they make more revenue than all other software security providers put together. They probably make more money in a week than our company makes in a year. And of course McAfee is #2 and according to their CFO and CEO in the article is spending a lot of money to try and catch Symantec—hence the arms race quotation. So, in regards to revenue it is clearly Symantec and the seven dwarfs.

But is making money the objective of consumer security? It would seem that the objective should be to protect customers while they are using the internet. We all use the internet in our daily business and we deserve to be confident that nothing nasty will happen while we use the internet. To me it seems the true measure should be how many consumers are secured.

None of the “big guys” publish numbers on the number of paid customers they have. But, we can make some guesses. The above article states that Symantec’s consumer security business is $1.8B and that they are 52% of the market. This means the total market is about $3.5B. So if the big guys make $40/year from each paid customer, that means that these companies secure about 88 million consumers—and Symantec secures about 45 million consumers.

But those are tiny numbers. I have seen estimates that there are about 1 billion computers used by consumers and small businesses. What are the rest using? Why are the “big guys” securing less than 10% of consumers?

The answer is that the “big guys” are not the big guys in terms of securing consumers. It is not “Symantec and the seven dwarfs”—Symantec is also a dwarf. Instead it is the 3 Kings—Avast and the other two free security providers. Here at Avast we are protecting over 80 million consumers—almost as many as all the “big guys” put together. Add in the other two free providers and the three of us are protecting over 230 million consumers. We are not making the money of the big guys but we are doing what a security company should do—protect the consumer.

To just install our free product, go to http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html and download it. And to reach me, you can find me on avast email, YIM, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I am sure you can find me.

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