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Success factors: the utilities market.

With the acquisition of Peter Norton Computing, Symantec Corp. now claims to be the industry's largest utility software publisher, with strong product lines in both the DOS and Macintosh markets. But Symantec also faces tough competition from other utility developers, especially Central Point Software (which advertises its PC Tools Deluxe collection as "the world's best-selling utility"). What are the critical success factors that will determine who wins the biggest share of the utilities market? We asked Symantec president Gordon Eubanks for his thoughts on this question:

Both Symantec and Central Point offer very feature-rich collections Of DOS utilities, and you often compete head-to-head for the same customers. What tips the scales? "What drives people to buy a utility collection is usually one important feature. In the case of DOS utilities, the essential feature has always been data recovery. We think we really do have great technology in the recovery area. The other features--disk optimization, encryption, the DOS shell--don't matter as much, and there aren't big differences in these areas between our products and the competition."

Traditionally, utility customers tend to buy one copy for their whole office, which they rarely use except in an emargency. Is this pattern changing?

We're trying to move our products from power user tools to something that benefits the average user all the time. Our goal is to get the software on every machine, just like a word processor. We'll continue to add functionality that brings us in that direction."

Does that mean you just evolve your products by adding features, or is there a "The features we add absolutely have to make sense as part of a whole. People really don't want you to bundle a word processor or a spreadsheet with a collection of disk utilities--they just don't fit together conceptually. We're also very careful to make the interface consistent. we've paid a lot of attention to interface design in the products we've acquired."

Now that big companies are beginning to dominate the utilities market, is there much room left for developers of specialized utilities?

It's a hard market now. You're going to have to have incredible technology to survive. The people who are really at risk are the ones whose products aren't much more than good ideas that are easy to copy. Sooner or later, those good ideas are going to become features in somebody else's product."

Gordon Eubanks, president, Symantec Corp., 10201 Torre Ave., Cupertino, calif. 95014; 408/253-9600.
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Title Annotation:interview with utilities software publisher Gordon Eubanks, president of Symantec Corp.
Article Type:interview
Date:Oct 3, 1990
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