Cracking Open the Antivirus Market

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print

Symantec and McAfee have dominated the antivirus marketplace for the last decade. But missteps by the big two have created opportunities for smaller vendors, such as Kaspersky Lab, Sophos and AVG, to make deep inroads into the one-time impenetrable market.

Upon arriving last week in Puerto Rico, Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky was picked up by a limo for the hour-long drive to the El Conquistador resort for his second Americas Partner Conference. At one point during the trip, his driver looked in the rearview mirror and asked, "Did you know there’s an antivirus company that has the same name as you?"

It’s not the first time Kaspersky has heard that. He takes great pride in building the security brand that bears his name. And, as he later told his Americas partners, "There is no 'Mr. Symantec.'"

"We have the right products and the right strategy, and we will, for sure, be over Symantec in the near future," says Kaspersky.

It’s a bold boast, but one that bears relevance in the midmarket. For years, the antivirus and security software market was locked up by Symantec and McAfee, each holding a combined share greater than 80 percent in the consumer and B2B markets. Secondary and tertiary vendors, including Trend Micro, Kaspersky, Sophos, AVG, CA and Panda Software—were left fighting over fragmented, single-digit market share and anemic B2B channels.

But in recent years, Symantec and McAfee have made significant missteps in market strategy, channel execution and product performance. And evolutions in security technologies and customer dissatisfaction have opened up the security market for the first time in a decade. Nevertheless, the two titans of the security industry continue to point their guns at each other, providing further opportunity for emerging competitors to exploit.

"McAfee and Symantec aren’t concerned about Kaspersky. They’re pretty much going after each other," says Peter Firstbrook, a research analyst at Gartner.

Solution providers attending the Kaspersky Americas Partner Conference last week spoke at length in the various sessions and in private conversations about the miscues and mistakes being made by the big security companies. Bloated and ineffective software packages, declining margins, poor technical and sales support, and increasing channel conflict were recurring themes.

"There’s a huge crack in [Symantec's and McAfee’s] armor because the customers are so tired of the performance issues," says John Ross, vice president of solutions architecture at Green Pages, a large account reseller in Kittery, Maine.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.