Symantec’s Thompson: “Our Job is to Out-Innovate Microsoft”
In a private conversation with a small group of journalists at the Partner Engage conference here at the Del Coronado Hotel near San Diego, Symantec CEO John Thompson responded to a range of questions about the company’s services plans and competition. He talked extensively about the former, but dodged questions about the latter–with one exception.
Even if you don’t resell Symantecs products, you probably have a sense of what you think the company does. So what does the company’s CEO think is its defining characteristic? “We are an infrastructure company,” Thompson stated flatly. In all of its offerings, Symantec delivers “above the operating system, and below the application.” That may sound constricting, but to Thompson, there’s a lot of room to build a big company focused on storage, systems, and network management. How much bigger, given its run rate last year of about $2.5 billion? Thompson admitted that he had famously slipped in a lecture earlier in the year, with several press picking up on his 10/10/10 commitment: generating $10 billion in annual revenue by 2010 “with 10% from services.”
But “services” is an imprecise term at best, and channel partners can be understandably confused when the label is thrown around without definition. Thompson differentiated between “asset-based” services “where the company is hosting an application and/or information” and “human capital-based” services, with humans focused on problem-solving. To avoid having two separate business units focused on these two categories of offerings, Symantec merged them together, under John Hausman, VP Product Management for Global Services, whom we spent some time with later in the day. The result: Thompson believes they’ll be able to make better decisions about what work is done by managed software, and what’s accomplished by its screwdriver cadre. And this approach also makes it easier to integrate the company’s channel partners into the mix, allowing them to resell Symantec’s managed and consulting/support services as extensions of their own.
Thompson for the most part dodged questions about specific competitors. But he deliberately (and shrewdly) took the bait when talk turned to security applications. He acknowledged that there’s one company in particular that has its software on nearly every PC on the planet, and which has designs on the security space. “Our job is to out-innovate Microsoft,” he stated flatly. But he believes Microsoft has so many distractions “like competing with Google in online applications and ad delivery” that his company can gain a substantial advantage.
How strong a hand does that give Symantec? “We think we have an opportunity to run the table,” he said with a smile.