Norton 360 Security Suite Ships

As Symantec Corp. launched its Norton 360 consumer security suite Monday, the company acknowledged that some users may be put off by the price, which is nearly double the list price of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Live OneCare.

"There will definitely be some price sensitivity" on the part of users, said Mark Kanok, 360's product marketing manager. "But the breadth and execution of Norton 360's functionality is greater [than OneCare's]. And I don't think anyone should undersell the intelligence of users."

Norton 360, which includes a firewall, antivirus and antispyware scanning software, rootkit detection, antiphishing protection, online and local backup and restore, and computer diagnostics tools, goes on sale today for US$79.99 for a one-year subscription. Like Microsoft's OneCare, which lists for $49.95, it can be installed on up to three PCs.

The Symantec suite has been touted by the Cupertino, Calif.-based company as both its next-generation consumer security product and a competitor to OneCare, which Microsoft launched in 2006 to much fanfare, primarily because of its price and three-PC license.

"People who have been with Norton for a long time know that we've been in the [security] business for 20-plus years," said Kanok, responding to questions about how Norton 360 can compete with a lower-priced product from Microsoft. "It does create some new challenges, though," he said.

One difference between the two suites is Symantec's online backup component. Norton 360 includes 2GB of online storage; additional allotments of 5GB, 10GB and 25GB per year can be purchased for $29.99, $49.99 and $69.99, respectively.

Kanok also stressed the faster speed, smaller memory footprint, and lighter processor load in differentiating 360 from other Norton titles, and he cited data from third-party tests that showed the new suite performed faster and with less impact on PC performance than the industry average.

"We really focused on performance," he said. "It's the best in the business as far as speed of scanning, as well as the efficacy of the scan."

Like Symantec's other prime consumer titles -- Norton AntiVirus and Norton Internet Security -- 360 will include new behavioral-based malware detection capabilities. Dubbed Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response when the technology debuted in January, SONOR is intended to complement traditional signature-based antivirus scanning. Symantec has been touting it as a "zero-day" defense that will stop exploits against unpatched vulnerabilities and catch malicious code in the early stages of spreading.

Norton 360, which runs on Windows XP and 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, is available now from Symantec's online store, but it will not roll out into retail until next month.

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