Q&A: McAfee CEO unfazed by Microsoft security moves

'I worry more about protecting customers,' says George Samenuk

George Samenuk, chairman and CEO of McAfee Inc., is not losing any sleep over Microsoft Corp.'s impending entry into the security software market. Microsoft is looking to muscle its way into the market with Windows Live OneCare, a set of software and services designed to protect computers from viruses and other malware. Samenuk is not overly concerned, saying that the effort falls short of what customers need. The recently released beta of Falcon, McAfee's next major software release, offers features that Microsoft and Symantec Corp. won't be able to match when Falcon hits the market in August, he said.

Samenuk spoke with IDG News Service recently about Microsoft's plans to enter the security software market and McAfee's response. Excerpts from that interview follow:

Microsoft is clearly taking the issue of security more seriously these days. How is McAfee going to respond to the increased competition? Competition is always good for the customer in any industry. When we look at Microsoft entering the security space, it will be good for all of the competitors because it will make us better.

When you look at their product offerings -- take their consumer offering, for example -- it doesn't include antispam. it doesn't include antiphishing. It doesn't include protection against identity theft, someone stealing your financial records or your medical records. When we look at our offerings, they are fully integrated, comprehensive security offerings that offer full protection, not half protection. For consumers, one of the most annoying things we get every day is spam. How can we have a consumer product without antispam?

Do I worry about Microsoft? Yes. But I worry more about protecting customers. Having fully integrated product lines for consumers, small businesses and large enterprises will be the differentiating factor for McAfee. Certainly, some unaware consumers may go with Microsoft. However, I think computer users, Internet users, are savvy enough that they know they need total protection.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft announced 20 new vulnerabilities in one day. I'm not sure corporations and governments are going to trust Microsoft with their security when they have these new vulnerabilities announced every month.

Do Microsoft executives have a tough sales job ahead of them? You have to ask them that. Security is a very competitive marketplace. You've got to deliver high-quality products every day to protect customers, and McAfee does that.

McAfee has been stronger in the corporate market than it has in the consumer market. What can the company do to get a bigger chunk of the consumer market? For 10 consecutive quarters, we have grown faster than Symantec in the consumer market. We weren't going to beat them in the retail stores, because they had a bigger presence than us. Four years ago, we elected to fight them through Internet service providers. We had an offering and they did not.

We're finding around the world that most security products are now being bought through Internet service providers. Symantec has announced their new Norton 360 product, which will be available a year from now. We're shipping ours next month. That shows you our online strategy is working very well versus their strategy, which hasn't been able to deliver an online product with all of those functions that I've discussed.

Our challenge is to take those corporate and government customers that are using McAfee today and get them to use McAfee for their home computer. This new product that we're delivering in August will have SiteAdvisor, telling people which Web sites are safe and which sites are bad. Think about this, dream a little bit: If every schoolchild that uses the Internet in China and the U.S. used SiteAdvisor, they'd have much safer Internet surfing. It would tell them when they are going to bad Web sites or Web sites with viruses or spyware. A red light would come up, and they would know not to go there. SiteAdvisor will be in all of our products this year.

Has switching the company's name from Network Associates to McAfee had an impact on your business? When McAfee first started, it was known as McAfee. Then they switched the name -- stupidly -- to Network Associates. Now, finally, I changed it back to McAfee. We have 90 million people that know McAfee on a global basis. We're rebuilding the brand through using the name McAfee with all of our products. That's really helped our business over the last couple of years. Last year, our revenue grew 22%.

The McAfee name is well recognized around the globe. I want the 700 million people who are using the Internet today, and the 1 billion who will be using the Internet two years from now, when they think of security to think of McAfee.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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