Entitlement program gives Symantec AntiVirus Corporate Edition users free upgrade

Symantec says its new entitlement program won't cost channel partners sales opportunities, even though it offers Symantec Endpoint Protection for free to Symantec AntiVirus Corporate Edition users.

Although Symantec is offering its existing AntiVirus Corporate Edition customers a free upgrade to the new Symantec Endpoint Protection suite, a company executive said the entitlement program is not leaving money on the table for either Symantec or its channel partners.

Symantec this week announced the program under which customers who currently use Symantec Client Security, Confidence Online for Corporate PCs or Symantec Sygate Enterprise Protection are eligible for the free upgrade to Symantec Endpoint Protection.

"We had to figure out how we were going to handle the customers who had some of these legacy products," Kevin Murray, senior director of product marketing, said. "It will be much easier to sell, and it's going to be much easier to explain to our customers."

Symantec Endpoint Protection -- once code-named Hamlet -- was announced to much fanfare in June, following months of hype.

It is technically the next version of Symantec AntiVirus, but it also includes antispyware software, firewall, network intrusion prevention and an optional host-based intrusion prevention system.

Existing customers must have a valid maintenance program to be eligible for the entitlement program. Symantec Endpoint Protection ships Sept. 27, and even customers who buy AntiVirus Corporate Edition today will be eligible.

Giving away a substantial set of new functions as a free upgrade is an interesting tactic, but one whose intent and whose impact on the channel is far from clear, analysts said.

"Symantec's bundling and upgrade strategy is pretty confusing, and candidly, I don't have enough interest to really figure it out," Michael Rothman, president of Security Incite in Atlanta, said in an email.

Rothman said he isn't sure if the entitlement program will cost channel partners potential sales opportunities. It could be an attempt to expose customers to additional security capabilities and hope they renew their maintenance programs at higher levels, "but that is just speculation on my part," Rothman said.

"I don't really understand the endpoint protection marketing announcement," agreed Paul Myerson, channel analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group, also via email. "My gut tells me it is a way for Symantec to reduce 'no buy' decisions in September, while trying to maintain a loyal customer base."

Despite all the new features, Murray said Symantec is not losing money for itself or partners by giving Symantec Endpoint Protection away for free to existing AntiVirus Corporate Edition customers.

"We're doing what the market is asking us to do," he said. "The industry is asking us to make it easier to secure endpoints."

Jonathan Dambrot, managing director for Prevalent Networks, a Symantec partner in Warren, N.J., said working with existing customers to integrate Symantec Endpoint Protection's new features presents a bigger opportunity than just selling the product. Plus, he said, partners will be able to sell it to new customers, who will be drawn to its all-in-one console approach.

"That consolidation is huge," he added.

Partners will also have opportunities to up-sell their customers who are not eligible for the entitlement program, Murray said. He estimated that Symantec Endpoint Protection will increase up-sell order sizes between 50% and 100%.

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