Anti-virus wars start up again

It is starting to look like the anti-virus wars are starting up again.

For those who came in late, the 1990s were a time where AV companies were engaged in hand-bag warfare which was as ruthless as it was entertaining. It was a time when there was a lot of competition in the marketplace and hacks were taken to secret briefings to explain why the other side were such rubbish. It was a time when you used to get press releases like “McAfee has asked Dr Solomon’s Software to reduce the virus detection rate of Dr Solomon’s product because McAfee is unable to keep up with the volume of viruses, and can’t achieve the same level of virus detection.”

These days it has been comparatively quiet. Network Associates which famously slagged off Dr Solomon during a staff barbecue, is now McAfee again and part of Intel. It seems that only Kaspersky has managed to retain the bile which was a trademark of those times.

Still, imagine our surprise, when Reuters ran a story this morning where McAfee rejected a claim that several large corporate customers had recently switched over to using products from rival Symantec.

Needless to say the comment came from Symantec Chief Financial Officer James Beer who claimed that his outfit was taking share in the anti-virus software market away from McAfee, which was bought by Intel.

This was vintage 1990s stuff, and once upon a time we would have said “yeah right” and probably ignored it. This was mostly because Beer declined to identify who the customers were.

But now McAfee Senior Vice President for Finance and Accounting Edward Hayden has struck back saying that the claim was false. He pointed out that his company had booked a record amount of business in its December quarter, signed its biggest deal ever and closed more sales over $1 million than it had in any single period.

He said he was “not aware of any major account” that lost to Symantec during the quarter.

Again, all unprovable stuff and vintage “he said, we say” stuff from 1997. Would the vice president of finance know if he had lost any major customers anyway?