Symantec hits quarter-century spot

Nineteen-eighty-two was the year Time magazine broke away from its annual Man of the Year special by naming, for the first time, a Machine of the Year: the personal computer.

In the same year, Symantec Corp. (a contraction for ‘syntax, semantics and technology’) was founded as a spin-off of software development firm Machine Intelligence Corporation.

“Clearly, Time was on to something. But I don’t think that they — or anyone else — could have imagined the transformation we’ve experienced in the past 25 years,” said Symantec chairman and CEO John Thompson at the company’s Vision 2007 conference held in Las Vegas last month.

From query, to security to IT systems management, here’s a quick look at 25 years of Symantec’s transformation, triumphs and tribulations:


1982 Symantec is established in Sunnyvale, Calif. to develop software that allows database queries by questioning a computer in plain English. Steve Shanks is named CEO.

1986 Its first widely successful product, Q&A, is launched. Designed for IBM PC platform, Q&A allows users to query databases in plain English. Shopping spree

1987 Symantec embarks on a spate of company acquisitions in a bid to rapidly expand its product line.

1990 Symantec buys Peter Norton Computing, signifying the company’s foray into a then emerging antivirus software market.

Rivals face off

1997 Symantec and rival McAfee Inc. (then McAfee Associates Inc.) face off as the former files a lawsuit against McAfee for allegedly stealing software code from Symantec’s Norton CrashGuard and incorporating it into McAfee’s PC Medic.

1999 McAfee fights back with a US$1 billion dollar defamation and trade libel suit against Symantec, accusing it of “blatantly lying about the facts of ongoing litigation between the companies.” By the end of the same year, all pending lawsuits are settled, ending a two-year legal battle between the two competitors.

Of bugs and viruses

1999 Melissa virus hits. Public demand for information causes a surge in traffic on Symantec’s Web site, briefly crashing its server. Symantec uses its LiveUpdate feature to distribute a detection and repair program for its customers.

2000 Symantec temporarily pulls LiveUpdate feature offline to fix a bug that causes some Windows 2000 systems to stall when downloading new definitions for the Norton Antivirus software.

2001 Nimda, a complex virus with a mass-mailing worm component, first appears. Symantec releases a repair tool that detects the worm and fixes damaged files.

2002 Advanced IT Security issues an advisory on its Web site about a flaw on Symantec’s firewall technology, Enterprise Firewall. Symantec and Advanced IT disagree on the scope of the flaw.

Shopping list grows

2003 Symantec buys remote PC management technology firm, ON Technologies for US$100 million. Analyst says ON’s technology gives Symantec’s Ghost software the enterprise-level functionality it lacks.

2005 Veritas gets bought for US$10.2 billion, the biggest yet in Symantec’s acquisition history. Its market stance takes a beating on Wall Street as Symantec’s stock price drops significantly following the merger announcement in 2004. Veritas customers, meanwhile, express concerns around product support from Symantec once the two companies merge.

2007 Symantec acquires systems management vendor Altiris for US$830 million, touting increasing integration between security and IT infrastructure management.

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