Symantec emphasizes speed with latest Norton releases

Symantec's latest security software in its consumer Norton line install in less than a minute and use much less memory.

Symantec's latest security software in its consumer Norton line installs in less than a minute and uses much less memory, two key improvements the company sees as keeping its products competitive.

On Tuesday Symantec released Norton AntiVirus 2009 and Norton Internet Security 2009 for U.S. customers. Symantec is translating and doing final quality checks for local-language versions for European countries, which should be on the shelf by the end of the month, said Con Mallon, product marketing director for Symantec's consumer division in Europe, on Wednesday.

Symantec embarked on a top-down engineering review of its consumer products after complaints the software slowed down PCs by consuming lots of memory and scanned files at inopportune times.

"Norton is seen as big, fat and slow," Mallon said. "People hunt around looking for better performance."

One focus has been installation times. Internet Security 2009 installs in around 53 seconds, a vast improvement over the four to five minutes needed to install Internet Security 2008, Mallon said. AntiVirus 2009 will also install in less than a minute.

One way Symantec slashed the install times was by ignoring Microsoft's recommended sequence for how applications should install on Windows. Symantec got rid of the menus asking questions such as what folder the application should be installed in. Users can go through that sequence if they choose, however. Most users don't care, though, and will trust Symantec.

"By and large, we know what we are doing," Mallon said.

When running, both programs use about 7M bytes of memory, where competing products use up to 10 times as much, Mallon said. By tracking queries to its help desk, Symantec found that 40 percent of their users have 512M bytes of memory or less, making it important security software is as light as possible, Mallon said.

Both products also use Norton Insight, a technology that speeds up scanning times by ignoring files that have not changed or those that have already been verified as being trusted files. Insight calculates and stores hashes for files on a PC; if the hash changes, the file is scanned. The Norton product also holds off on scanning until its user is away.

Antispam software used to be a free download for Internet Security and AntiVirus, but now is part of both products.

Symantec is also offering a plug-in for Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers that displays a warning next to search-engine results if a Web site is hosting malware. The product, called Safe Web, is in beta and requires a purchase of Internet Security 2009. In this area, Symantec is just catching up to products such as McAfee's SiteAdvisor or AVG's LinkScanner.

Internet Security 2009 is priced at AUD$99.95 and AntiVirus costs AUD$49.95. Other features such as a two-way firewall, antiphishing and identity protection technology and parental Internet controls account for the higher price of Internet Security.

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