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Network Associates sets sights on online market

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Anti-virus specialist Network Associates has launched an Internet portal aimed at users seeking a one-stop shop for PC "health and fitness". The service also includes a subscription component, McAfee's Garage, essentially a Web-based extension of the regular anti-virus software update scheme the company already operates. Subscriptions run from $4 to $8 a month, for which the subscriber gets access to NA's anti-virus, PC tune-up and data encryption software. The service also features a "travelling portal" add-on to Internet Explorer 4.0. This is essentially a new name for push technology. NA will pump virus and security alerts, context-sensitive search results based on the Web sites the user visits, and -- with the dollar signs ringing up in the eyes of NA executives -- adverts. In short, subscribers will pay for the privilege of providing NA with the opportunity of making even more money (a) through the sales of ads, and (b) by beaming users' with excuses to buy NA products. The portal itself will promote online software sales through partner Beyond.com. And, according to NA VP of marketing Srivats Sampath, the site will soon feature a comparative shopping service, provided by online marketer Junglee (which is now effectively an Amazon.com subsidiary) for clothes, PCs, videos, books and CDs and a number of other categories. NA's grand portal plan also includes the provision of UPS and FedEx package tracking, and postage stamp sales, according to reports in the US media. The company is currently negotiating with a partner to provide travel information and bookings -- it is also in talks with various Net search engines. All of which should bring NA's service in line with numerous already-established portals. While the subscription service vaguely makes sense -- it's an attractive way for re-presenting a service the company already offers -- the more mainstream facilities has the air of gimmick about it. Certainly, the current Wall Street infatuation with e-commerce companies and portals in particular would suggest NA's plans are aimed as much at boosting their own stock as anything else. And indeed Sampath hinted that this may be part of the company's gameplan. It also could be seen as a neat way of packaging and presenting NA as a company as something more than the sum of its numerous takeover-acquired parts, from McAfee and Dr Solomon and Secure Networks. ® Click for more stories

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