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John Thompson and company are staking their claim as one of Silicon Valley's leading innovators. Will they succeed?


Silicon Valley is rife with companies famous for their technological innovations—Hewlett-Packard, whose founders essentially invented the valley's high-tech culture; Xerox, in whose famed Palo Alto Research Center lab was born much of the foundation for today's personal computers; Intel, whose co-founder Gordon Moore prophesied the huge technological gains of the last three decades—the list goes on and on. One company that would make almost no one's list of great innovators, Symantec, is in the midst of a quiet technological and cultural makeover designed to change that perception and cement the company's spot atop the security industry. Executing on a strategy of innovation and acquisition is Big Yellow's challenge.

Since its inception in the 1980s, Symantec has existed literally and figuratively in the shadow of its older and more established valley brethren. Sitting mere miles from the headquarters of HP, Xerox PARC, Intel and other members of the industry's ruling elite, Symantec has been best-known for its acquisitive tendencies and penchant for morphing and changing strategies every couple of years. Within a decade, the company evolved from a maker of basic computing utilities and productivity software into an antivirus vendor that also had some utilities, and then completed the transformation into

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a one-stop-shop for enterprise and consumer security products.

A new evolution is under way, one that began with the company's audacious acquisition last year of storage and backup leader Veritas, but is being pushed forward by a wave of internal innovation and product development unprecedented in the company's history. The goal is to turn Symantec—already a $5 billion company—into one of the dominant players in the software industry, on an equal footing with Sun, Oracle and even Microsoft.

This was first published in November 2006

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