Lloyd Robert Borrett


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Friday, June 11, 2004

Symantec, Brightmail and Microsoft 

While sorting out a potential virus problem for friends recently, I noticed Symantec has purchased Brightmail, a high flying anti-spam provider, for US$370 million. Seems like company valuations reminiscent of the dot-com boom are back if you are an anti-virus and/or anti-spam company. Brightmail had only just posted its first profit (US$1.2 million) in fiscal year ending January '04, with revenue jumping from $12 million to $26 million. Symantec had already invested US$18 million in Brightmail back in 2000 for an 11% stake. Apparently Brightmail receives about 85% of its revenue from only 5% of its customer base, with Microsoft alone accounting for more than 10% of total revenue and the world's larger ISPs around 50%.

Microsoft is working on building its own anti-spam software, as well as an anti-virus offering that will compete with Symantec. So I guess Symantec now has 370 million more reason to cry foul when Microsoft properly integrates these solutions with its various operating systems, desktop and enterprise business software solutions.

I can remember when one had to buy expensive memory managers, defrag tools, PC interconnect and a host of other utilities as third-party party add-ons, simply in order to get things done. They often didn't properly integrate, which caused many more headaches than I care to remember. Yet today, when Microsoft bundles some utility into its operating systems they cop a lot of flack. That is why we don't already have excellent backup, defrag, anti-spam, anti-virus and other system utilities built into the operating systems instead of nothing or, at best, crippled versions.

The same people that complain about everything not being properly integrated, and having to remember about so many bits and pieces in order to run a reliable, stable, protected system, also accuse Microsoft of being a powerful monopoly when they bundle in a new utility or service that is already available from a third-party company. I hope Symantec aren't paying dot-com type prices because they think they can win the PR war and stop Microsoft from bundling anti-virus and anti-spam solutions into its operating systems anytime soon. Let's hope that common-sense will prevail and Microsoft is allowed to do the right thing.


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