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Symantec CEO praises NetBackup, prepares new company strategy

Symantec executives Wednesday indicated backup and storage would continue to play a big role in its future, especially after a strong fourth quarter for NetBackup.

Symantec folded its earnings report into a two-hour presentation focused mainly on outlining the company’s strategic direction under CEO Stephen Bennett, who replaced Enrique Salem last July.

Symantec executives said NetBackup revenue increased 12% year-over-year, highlighting the company’s overall four percent revenue increase. Bennett and CFO James Beer said NetBackup appliances continue to sell well. They did not mention Backup Exec, which the execs have said needed fixing in the past few earnings call. Backup Exec had a tough year, following a poorly received upgrade of the SMB backup application at the start of 2012.

Symantec’s storage management product revenue grew one percent, which is the second quarter of growth after several of decline.

Despite the good results, last quarter’s earnings were overshadowed during the presentation by Symantec’s future plans. NetBackup would seem to figure prominently in those plans, especially on appliances.

The execs also said they would simplify licensing and improve technical support for all products. Bennett said he intends to make it easier to get support through other methods than by phone. “We weren’t delivering technical support experiences for our customers that we were proud of,” he said.

The Symantec execs included an object storage platform on its list of 10 product areas it will focus on. It’s not clear if that would be a new platform or object storage built into FileStore. In 2010, Symantec folded development of its nascent S4 object storage file system into FileStore.

We’ll have to wait for details on Symantec’s object storage plans. As Bennett said Wednesday, “We have nothing to announce today” as far as product specifics.

Symantec didn’t announce layoff specifics either, although Bennett said there would be a $275 million severance charge. Bloomberg reported that up to 1,000 jobs will be cut, mostly middle managers. Some will be replaced by new hires in research and development. And Reuters reported that Bennett does not plan to sell any of Symantec’s assets for now.

“We’re going to have bigger, better jobs for fewer people,” Bennett said.

Bennett will actually have one fewer job. He is giving up the chairman role he also held. Symantec split the CEO and chairman roles, naming board member Dan Schulman as the new chairman.

Bennett said he spent much of the last quarter of 2012 on a world tour meeting with customers, employees and investors while putting together the company’s forward strategy. He said the next year or so will be one of transition.

“We have to change the tires while the car is running,” Bennett said. We know which customer he got that idea from.

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