Recently, Mike Mimoso, editor for Information Security magazine, sat down with Trend Micro Inc. CEO Eva Chen. They spoke candidly about Trend Micro's channel strategy, and why Chen thinks selling through the channel is the way to go. Also find out how Chen thinks Microsoft's security offerings measure up to a security-specific vendor such as Trend Micro.
Mike Mimoso: Can you talk a little about Trend Micro's channel strategy and especially how it helps the smaller companies?
Eva Chen: Trend Micro is a very channel-focused company; we're 100% channel. And why do we believe in this? Because we believe people buy security not because they want security, but because security is just part of the solution.
And therefore, as a security company, Trend Micro cannot provide everything. Even Microsoft cannot provide a total solution; they cannot provide routers or the PC. But smaller businesses especially need the whole package -- the PC, the router, the network, the connection, the security -- everything together. Who can provide it? Only channel partners, right? The channel partners that can provide all the solutions are the so-called "one-stop" solution. The vendor cannot be a one-stop solution.
So, our channel strategy is we always come out with our best. Our products are integrated into Cisco's small user router; we make sure we always work with the Microsoft platform. And that's our strategy; it's our belief that the one-stop solution for the customer is the channel partner. Even our Worry-Free Remote Manager and our hosting solution, InterScan, have been sold through the channel.
Mike Mimoso: I would imagine you interact with the channel partners a lot in terms of developing new product features and new designs they would like to see. What's that interaction like with the channel partners and how much do they contribute to what ends up in the final product?
Eva Chen: In our company we have a small business division. The division's everyday job is to either talk to the reseller or the channel partner to develop products. The Worry-Free Remote Manager is totally developed together with our channel partner. Partners will say, "Hey, it costs me to run to my customer's site to fix the problem but I need to provide them with better services." So we designed this remote manager console so that our reseller program, the partner, can use this to remotely help their customer.
Mike Mimoso: Let's talk about Microsoft for a second. It's getting behind Forefront, promising a lot of integrated security in one package for customers. How much are you running into that notion from your customers that they want that one place, that one console, to look at all their basic security needs? It comes down to that best of breed vs. the integrated solution.
Eva Chen: Right. I used to use this story: Usually they ship fish overseas from Japan. When you ship those fish, if they put a crab inside the fish tank, the crab tries to attack the fish. Why do they do that? They do this because if they don't put the crab there, the fish will become very dizzy and will die. If you put a crab inside the fish tank, the fish will work hard to get away from the crab and live better. So, what I'm saying is, Microsoft, in the security business, is like that crab. They provide some basic security, but it's the security vendor's responsibility to be the fish and 'swim faster' than what Microsoft can provide.
So, if customers today say, "Okay, if there's no differentiation," of course they would choose maybe just the free software. There's a lot of free antivirus software out there. If a security vendor did not provide enough differentiation, either with better protection or better services, then that vendor doesn't deserve to survive anyway. So what I see Microsoft doing, I believe they are providing some baseline security and they should do that as a platform provider.
But, one reason why I'm confident that security vendors can do better than Microsoft is their different natures. Microsoft is a platform player. Platform companies tend to move slower because of the process; it's a different business. Security is a very different landscape. The threat changes a lot. The hacker forces you to be very agile and change very quickly. So this is two different cultures. So I think Microsoft can provide some basic security, but it still requires a security vendor that is agile, innovative, and that keeps on coming out with new solutions to tackle new threats.
Mike Mimoso: It's amazing that spam continues to be big business. Are you surprised people still follow those links and try to purchase whatever the product is?
Eva Chen: Yeah, but unfortunately, if you think about it, there are 1 billion users on the Internet, right? So for them, if their banks send them an email or someone sends them an email saying, "Hey, this picture is so cool," they are so happy to receive it and they will click on it.
This is the beauty of the Internet that connects so many people in different spectrums. ... It's the beauty of the Internet but also, unfortunately, the weakness.