The New Old Guard: Symantec And McAfee Fight To Regain Dominance In The New World Of Security

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In the security market, what’s old is new again.

Symantec and McAfee, two companies that 10 years ago were at the vanguard of the war against email threats in the PC era, have since lost ground in the IT security market to a slew of hot startups with next-generation technology. But the giants are not content to sleep, and now both are trying for a comeback.

With a focus on new technology that goes well beyond anti-virus as well as robust channel strategies and road maps for innovation to challenge their younger rivals, Symantec CEO Greg Clark and McAfee CEO Chris Young believe their respective companies are poised to once again dominate the security space.

[Q&A: Symantec CEO On Company Transformation, How It Will Look To Define Future Of Platform Security]

As fate would have it, the two security stalwarts have arrived at this point in their journeys at the same time, both looking to architect resurgences after a series of spinouts, acquisitions and senior management changes.

“This is an important transformation that we’re going through,” Young told CRN. “Cybersecurity is maturing and we’re going to see that in five years it’s going to be very different than it is today. … We aim to help define that future in a meaningful way. We won’t rest until we get there.”

That’s a future Symantec also is bidding to define, Clark said, transforming its business and bringing to the table its own vision of what that future looks like for customers and partners.

“We have done a very strong transformation, acquisition and repositioning of Symantec for our enterprise customers around integrated cyberdefense, which we’re doing very well at,” Clark said. “We put those things together and we have a fantastic growth engine for the long haul.”

It’s clear why Symantec and McAfee are both looking to win in the space—the security market is growing at a rapid pace, expected to hit $202.4 billion by 2021, up from $122.5 billion in 2016, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.

However, both companies have seen drastic declines in their share of the security software market in recent years, according to research firm Gartner.

In 2005, Symantec held the top spot with 32.2 percent of the worldwide security software market by revenue, and McAfee held 12.4 percent at No. 2, with both seeing double-digit year-over-year growth, according to Gartner. Ten years later, Symantec and McAfee (then known as Intel Security) still owned the top two spots in the security software, but their share of the market had dropped dramatically: After three consecutive years of revenue decline, Symantec held 15.2 percent of the worldwide security software market in 2015, while McAfee was at 7.9 percent after a year-over-year revenue dip.