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McAfee: Partners benefit from Symantec channel conflict

McAfee channel chief Roger King says Symantec's recent distractions create opportunities for McAfee and its partners.

Symantec's channel conflicts and executive shuffling are creating opportunities for McAfee and its partners, McAfee's channel chief said today.

Roger King, McAfee's executive vice president of worldwide channel operations, said Symantec is his company's top target in the IT security market, and this year's turmoil has helped McAfee. King pointed to McAfee's 26% year-over-year growth, which he said was much higher than that of Symantec and other security vendors, as an indicator.

The company is not shy about pointing out its rival's flaws.

"They are the 500-pound gorilla in our business," he said. "Anything that can be construed as a disadvantage or a distraction, we highlight to our partners."

Symantec channel chief Julie Parrish left the company for NetApp in October, and Symantec may restructure its channel organization instead of replacing her. Some partners have speculated that North American channel chief Randy Cochran may not be long for the company either. And CEO John Thompson is retiring in April, when he will be replaced by COO Enrique Salem. Salem set off a controversy this summer when he told Wall Street analysts about Symantec's direct sales strategy for its largest customers.

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"We see opportunity in some of the distractions that our biggest competitor has had," King said.

But King also said McAfee will not take Symantec lightly, because a rebound is inevitable.

"To me, these are [temporary] things," he said. "They will fix the wagons."

King spoke during a conference call to update reporters and analysts on McAfee's 2009 channel strategy.

McAfee's top channel priority is to complete this year's Secure Computing acquisition by combining the two companies' channel programs -- a process that King acknowledged will take time.

"We will put the programs together when we are ready to do it," he said. "Most of the heavy lifting will happen in the second quarter."

McAfee still has to integrate Secure Computing's products with its own as well. Brian Foster, McAfee's senior vice president of product management, said Secure Computing's Webwasher security appliances and the Sidewinder firewall are two products that will help McAfee partners grow their businesses.

Sidewinder has been one of the best firewall products in the market, but it never had the success it deserved because of Secure Computing's relatively limited reach, said Gordon Shevlin, executive vice president at FishNet Security, a McAfee partner in Kansas City, Mo. McAfee will be able to give Sidewinder more exposure and drive more sales for partners, Shevlin said.

"They were kind of the best-kept secret," he said. "McAfee will really be able to gain an advantage and market share."

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