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PGP deep-freezed – NAI shrugs

Too bored to keep it alive, too tired to let it die

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Network Associates has put its PGP Desktop software into the deep freeze, leaving both users and its own staff in the dark.

"Effective immediately Network Associates will cease new development on these products, and not sell additional licenses, services and support agreements," the company wrote in an email last week.

Network Associates, which had bought PGP Inc for $35 million in December 1997, put the division up for sale last year, but decided to keep certain parts of the technology in house, making the bundle less attractive to potential purchasers. In fact, NAI dismantled the bundle, removing the IPSEC utility and firewall and the SDK, before putting the entrails in the shop window, according to critics.

Not surprisingly, the bowdlerized bundle found no takers, and NA has told its customers - but not its shareholders - that there'll be no more investment in the product beyond maintaining existing support contracts.

Hot on the trail, Stephan Somogyi collared Network Associates President Gene Hodges last week, who again pitched for buyers.

Yesterday NAI staff confirmed that they hadn't been given a steer. Stephan pinpoints his experiences of Network Associates anti-marketing strategy for its crown jewels:

"I can honestly say that I never once saw it marketed… NAI not only didn't spend much effort getting the word out, it seemed to be, well, actively inert when it came to promoting PGP. If the company had wanted to make money from PGP Desktop, I'm convinced it could have," he writes.

Spot on, Stephan. Corporate security issues - against which the PGP suite is a cheap and comprehensive prophylactic - have never been higher. And yet we find a company with such an obviously attractive product - it's pretty unique with its ease of use - too tired to sell it, but too tired to let it die.

John Ashcroft has been drumming the beat recently, reminding the tech industry that a "lucrative surveillance state" (in our Tom's words) can be built from the ashes of the September 11 attacks. This obviously doesn't extend to personal privacy software. Are we the only people who find the neglect of PGP somewhat fishy? ®

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