New Symantec shield aims to repel Microsoft

Security product launching this year to rival features in Microsoft's upcoming OneCare service and in Windows Vista.

Symantec plans to introduce a security product later this year that will take on Microsoft's forthcoming Windows OneCare and Vista security technology.

The software, code-named "Genesis," will integrate components of Symantec's current security, PC optimization and backup products, the security company said. It will be sold on a subscription basis and will require an initial one-year agreement. Pricing has not yet been determined.

"Genesis is not a suite or a bundle of tools, but a single integrated software application delivered to consumers as a service," Tom Powledge, the director of product management at Symantec, said in an interview Wednesday. The company plans to officially announce Genesis next week, he said.

The service is slated to arrive by the end of September. It will offer protection against viruses, spam, spyware and phishing scams, and stop hacker attacks with intrusion prevention technologies and a firewall, Symantec said. It will include offline and online backup features, as well as PC optimization and maintenance tools. On top of this, the software will include a newly designed user interface and built-in technical support.

Microsoft is also readying its OneCare security service. Like Genesis, OneCare includes antivirus and anti-spyware technology as well as a firewall and PC optimization and backup tools. Microsoft has also said it will include phishing protection in Internet Explorer 7. The browser will be part of the upcoming Windows Vista update, which is expected to ship by the end of the year.

"We're more than happy to compete with Microsoft," Powledge said. "Symantec will innovate on top of Vista. Security will be a dynamic issue that will be with us for quite some time."

Online shoppers will be able to use Genesis to securely store personal information such as credit card numbers, Symantec said. They can also use it to authenticate Web sites, the company said.

Those transaction security tools are reminiscent of Microsoft's InfoCard technology. InfoCard is designed to provide secure storage for identity information that will be shared with online services such as Web stores.

The technology in Genesis comes from current Symantec products such as Norton Internet Security and SystemWorks, as well as from work by Whole Security, the antiphishing specialist Symantec acquired in September of last year, Powledge said.

Genesis is not intended as a replacement for any item in Symantec's current lineup, he added. Instead, the Cupertino, Calif., software maker plans to target people who want an easy-to-understand and unobtrusive security product, Powledge said. Norton Internet Security will be aimed more at consumers who "want to dial in and turn the knobs," he said.

Symantec's plans also include the release this summer of a standalone product that includes only the Web transaction security pieces of Genesis, Powledge said.

Genesis will be available online and in stores. Symantec is in talks with PC makers to ship the software on new machines, and the product might replace Norton Internet Security on those systems, Powledge said. Norton Internet Security is bundled today by Hewlett-Packard, Dell and others. Genesis will run on Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Microsoft unveiled its plans for OneCare in May 2005. It marks the software giant's entry into the consumer antivirus market, which has been the domain of specialized vendors such as Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro. A public test version of OneCare has been available since last November. The final release is expected in 2006.

Other security vendors, such as McAfee and Trend Micro, are also expected to respond to Microsoft's entry with their own beefed-up products.

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