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The three major anti-virus software vendors are all building on their anti-spam offerings. Symantec, Trend Micro and Network Associates are all fighting for a share of the growing market. With these established players making moves, pure-play spam filter vendors will have a hard time gaining much market share without being acquired.

The big three anti-virus software vendors are all developing anti-spam products. Symantec announced on Monday that its AntiVirus for SMTP Gateways 3.1, which has anti-spam features, is now available. Trend Micro has already started shipping a Spam Prevention Service, and Network Associates has a launch planned for next month.

"Before now we had dabbled in anti-spam," with features such as subject-line blocking and blacklist filters, Symantec group product marketing manager Chris Miller said. "But this is our first significant entry into the enterprise anti-spam market."

While Symantec is going the route of building its spam features in-house, rival Trend Micro has partnered with Postini. Trend's offering currently requires a separate spam-filter server to be deployed (a major drawback, Symantec's Miller said) but the company is working on a one-box system for release in the second half.

Network Associates, meanwhile, bought Deersoft in January for its spam technology. Like Symantec, Network Associates already has a client-side spam filter offering, but has yet to release its mail gateway - where the bulk of the market is expected to be. The product is expected early in the second quarter, a spokesperson said.

Trend was first of the three to market with a gateway filter, but has yet to flesh out its client-side strategy. A partnership or an acquisition seem distinct possibilities, but the company is tight-lipped. Trend global product manager Jeani Boots said the company is "investigating that market space".

Trend says its spam gateway, launched in January, has 10 beta customers for the Solaris version of the software, the Windows version in beta, and about 80 customer prospects in the pipeline. Service providers, some in the Latin American market, are also testing the software.

The presence of the three big established virus gateway companies in the spam market means the chances of many pure-play spam filter vendors making it big without being acquired are challenging.

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