RSA 2005: A chat with Sybari's Joe Licari

Check out an insider's perspective on Sybari's latest initiatives and what Microsoft's acquisition plans could mean for users who buy in now.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Like many security vendors, New York-based Sybari Software Inc. is using the RSA conference to announce its latest offerings. The company announced its collaboration with Hewlett-Packard on the Smart Plug-In (SPI) for Antigen, which is now available for download. It also announced a partnership with Asian security firm AhnLab Inc. to add its V3 scanning engine to the Antigen product line.

With Microsoft planning to acquire Sybari, one might wonder why the company is moving ahead with these initiatives. After all, won't customers be reluctant to buy in if the whole product line could change once the company becomes part of the software giant?

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In this Q&A, Joe Licari, vice president of product management for Sybari, talks about the future of the company and its products, and how he believes the planned acquisition could attract more users in the short term.

Do you worry that potential customers will be reluctant to buy into your latest offerings over uncertainty with the acquisition?

Licari:Actually, we see the opposite happening. We're still a small fish compared to companies like Symantec and McAfee. With Microsoft looking to use what we offer to help strengthen its security, that gives us a lot more exposure and credibility. It's a win for both of us: We can help Microsoft overcome its malware challenges and it can help us get our message out to more users.

Does that mean the Sybari name and product line will remain intact if the Microsoft acquisition goes forward?

Licari: To be honest, it's still hard to say right now. There are still details to be worked out. [Microsoft Chairman Bill] Gates talked about GeCAD this morning. We may see some branding changes and so on, but it's too soon to say what will happen in that respect. [Note: In his Tuesday morning keynote speech, Gates said if the Sybari acquisition is finalized, Microsoft will release an engine based on GeCAD technology acquired in 2003 as one of the multiple scanning engines supported by Sybari's flagship Antigen software. He added that the Microsoft engine will be integrated into a broad consumer offering by year's end.]

That uncertainty hasn't made people reluctant to look at your products?

Licari: I've talked to salespeople who say they're getting a response now with accounts they'd been working on for a long time. The Microsoft news has increased awareness of who we are and what we offer. I think that customers expect to be using us in one way or another. Because of that, there's more interest and credibility. It's a powerful story: Microsoft taking us in to help solve its security problem.

How many customers are potentially affected?

Licari: Today we have 10,000 customers protecting 10 million users around the world, mostly in North America and Europe. By adding V3 to the Antigen product line we're hoping to attract more clients in Asia. And, of course, with Microsoft there's the potential for a much wider reach.

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