Symantec Chief Executive Officer (CEO) John Thompson has had a bumpy ride over this past year. He closed one of the largest software company acquisitions in history\u2014last year\u2019s US$10.2 billion purchase of Veritas Software\u2014and has been dealing with executive departures and a company reorganization. But perhaps the most serious disruption of all has come from a formidable new competitor into the company\u2019s security software business: Microsoft.Thompson recently invited the IDG News Service to his company\u2019s unpretentious Cupertino headquarters (the 16,000-employee company shares an address with a law firm and an electronics marketer) to share his thoughts on Microsoft and security, and to explain which Microsoft competitor he sees Symantec emulating in its upcoming fight. Hint: It\u2019s not Red Hat.IDG News Service: Where are you most worried about competing with Microsoft?John Thompson: I\u2019m not worried about Microsoft at all. Let\u2019s be clear about that. If anything, my focus is on making sure we can deliver the level of innovation and the level of visibility or of capabilities that we always have. And to the extent that Microsoft plays fairly, there is a level playing field and I don\u2019t worry about Microsoft. If they do something that is unfair, clearly we will be watching, and I\u2019m sure others will as well.Microsoft is synonymous with a lot of things in the software and technology industry. Security is not one of them. And they\u2019ve got a long way to go to demonstrate not only capability, but to deliver and build a reputation of being able to support a vast array of users in that regard.IDG: They\u2019ve changed, though.Thompson: Have they? In what way?IDG: Just in the marketing alone. The fact that they\u2019re talking about security.Thompson: Well, I think that\u2019s good for the whole industry. And the fact that Microsoft is going to put enormous money behind raising the awareness and consciousness that people have that they need to secure their connected experience. That\u2019s good for Microsoft, but by the way, that\u2019s good for us. That\u2019s good for the world at large. So I don\u2019t think that is necessarily a manifestation of a change in Microsoft. That\u2019s a manifestation of the realization that awareness is an important element of getting people to act.IDG: You\u2019ve said for a while that innovation is where you want to compete, but people who have had success against Microsoft\u2014and I\u2019m thinking of IBM and the open-source community, for example\u2014have had luck in creating partnerships. Are there key partnerships that you have?Thompson: Well, I would argue that the most successful defensive battle against Microsoft was Intuit. Nobody makes any money in open source, so I don\u2019t know how you declare that a success. But clearly, Intuit doubled down and said, "Look we\u2019re going to out-innovate Microsoft. We\u2019re going to run harder than they are to deliver a series of capabilities that are very compelling to our user base." And guess what? Microsoft had to acquiesce, pull in their horns and work somewhere else. IDG: So is that a model for you?Thompson: I think that is a wonderful, wonderful example.IDG: Are you still thinking of holding back Norton 360 (Symantec\u2019s upcoming competitor to Windows Live OneCare) until next year?Thompson: It\u2019s less about when the code is going to be ready. When\u2019s the right time to launch the product? The code is still targeted for being done in September. We\u2019ll do our beta program this summer. Based upon the feedback we get there, the things we have to do, we\u2019ll see whether we meet the current target. If it moves off that target, then you have to ask yourself the question, do you really want to introduce it in the Christmas selling season? That might create some confusion with other products that are already in the market.IDG: One issue really came to people\u2019s attention during the Sony rootkit incident: software vendors, or people providing you with technology, not letting you know what\u2019s going on with your computer. Microsoft has gotten in trouble just in the last few weeks over Windows Genuine Advantage notification.Thompson: I don\u2019t think people are doing it for malicious intent. I think that\u2019s the real issue that you have to get at. What is the intent of what someone might be doing with a capability embedded within your machine? Oftentimes it\u2019s to try to deliver a better level of service. It\u2019s to try to provide insight back to the manufacturer so they can improve the product, as opposed to, "I want to do keystroke logging."So I think people need to step away from the fact that perhaps there was some piece of detective capability on the machine, to what was the intent and how did the company respond when it was made public. And I think Sony acted very responsibly, frankly.IDG: Do you think this is something that the software industry in general could maybe pay a little more attention to, or do you think these are just exceptions? It sounds like it\u2019s not really something that is on your mind.Thompson: Spyware is on my mind. So people who put software on your machine to track activity that you\u2019re engaged in while you\u2019re using your machine, that\u2019s on our mind. That\u2019s a big issue. It undermines confidence that users have about operating in the connected world. And therefore, we are big-time focused on it. But I\u2019m not focused on people who have typical business intent to deliver helpful products and services to make your experience better.-Robert McMillan, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.