Cracking Open the Antivirus 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.

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