Is Paul Walsh the new CEO of Symantec?

Late last week PC and network security specialist Symantec announced the departure of its second CEO in as many years. Steve Bennett has been sacked and replaced by board member Michael Brown as interim CEO until they find a suitable “leader to drive the next stage product innovation”.

The Chair of the board Daniel Schulman’s comments regarding Bennett’s contribution didn’t mention anything about progress in product innovation or company growth. Instead he thanked him for his contribution towards “business process improvement initiatives” and “cost cutting exercises”. Whilst these initiatives are important, they’re pretty easy to implement. And as Bennett found out the hard way, they’re not nearly as important as product innovation at a time when innovation is really needed at Symantec in this new(ish) post-PC era. Symantec will need to look long and hard at its product roadmap to ensure it doesn’t become irrelevant along with PCs, for which many of its current products and services are made. And can a company with over 200 products be the best in the world at anything?

I also question the brand marketing around the SSL business that Symantec acquired from VeriSign for $1.28B. It has been over 3 years since the acquisition and yet, most people still associate the tick with VeriSign. Moreover, I’d like to see some innovation around SSL in the smart device market. The PC market is dying and therefore, desktop browsers aren’t here to stay. Products that are built for companies and consumers who use desktop browsers are certainly not going to help a company scale. I’d like to see Symantec “extend” SSL further, to provide consumers with more trust when accessing web content inside apps (and mobile browsers). There isn’t a single security product addressing this need today.

Back to the CEO job. When one of our lead investors emailed me to say “Perfect timing for MetaCert. We should explore a possible partnership to help them with their mobile product roadmap. Go for it Paul!!” I immediately assumed the CEO position of Symantec (in my head) and updated my LinkedIn profile page. It was a silly prank for our investors, allowing me to highlight that MetaCert is working on products that companies like Symantec should have on their roadmap (metacert.com is way out of date). I assumed that either people wouldn’t notice, or they would assume it was a mistake. Instead, I received more than 100 emails congratulating me on my new post – including very senior management from big corporations with whom I had worked with in the past. I’m flattered that everyone assumed it to be true, but I must apologize for any confusion it may have caused. It’s not true. I am not the CEO of Symantec. I am still the CEO of MetaCert. But I will happily help them with mobile innovation should they ask for it.

At MetaCert we’re working on some mobile security projects in stealth, so perhaps they have similar innovations around mobile browser and app security to announce in the near future. I hope they do as it will help us to demonstrate a market need in order to raise more funding for our go to market strategy. I didn’t want to write too much about “MetaCert” in this post so I’ll write a followup post to explain why we are making some product changes ourselves.

With a massive portfolio of products and with little demonstrable innovation in the mobile security space, Symantec will need to hire someone who can execute fast – someone who’s not only got an eye for future trends, but who can create products to solve problems that people didn’t realize they had (such as the ones I’ve already outlined, albeit vaguely). This isn’t always easy but Symantec has the resource to educate a large market, with the ability and outreach to attract the developer community to help scale their solutions.

I believe the mobile app and browser security space is still at its infancy but there are a few areas of serious security concerns, for which no product exists. Whenever I think about apps and how they are evolving, I think back to my days at AOL when my teams were testing browser technologies. And as one of the original seven founders of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative, I will continue to believe that apps are growing exponentially but the Web and mobile browsers are here to stay. And the area of real concern is where apps and the Web meet inside a WebView.

Now… back to work at MetaCert. Not, Symantec.


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    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1  jim goodlett said...

    Well played you crafty bigger!