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Symantec dumps CEO; vows to fix Backup Exec 2012

New Symantec CEO Stephen Bennett said fixing Backup Exec 2012 problems is one of his priorities as he replaces Enrique Salem.

Symantec removed CEO Enrique Salem and replaced him with chairman Stephen Bennett today, as officials claimed the company's stock performance suffered during Salem's three-year reign.

While Bennett did not cite any specific technology or product problems as leading to Salem's downfall, he did mention the customer uproar over the Backup Exec 2012 upgrade. When Symantec released Backup Exec 2012 with a new interface this year, many long-time customers took to the vendor's message boards to complain about the changes.

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"We have a problem in the Backup Exec area," Bennett said on a conference call today to discuss the Symantec CEO change and the company's earnings. "We're really focused on sorting that out."

CFO James Beer said it will probably take at least six months to straighten out Backup Exec.

"Let me spend a moment on an area where we didn't execute to our high standard on a new product launch," Beer said. "While we delivered a much improved user interface for Backup Exec, we excluded specific functionality that customers still required. As such, we have now re-instated this functionality to further simplify the backup process. We expect it will take two to three quarters to get Backup Exec back on track."

Beer didn't say what functionality Symantec brought back, but the vendor did add the option for a job-centric view in Backup Exec 2012 this month. Symantec originally changed to a server-centric view in the upgrade but customers complained that they couldn't see their jobs without the Job Monitor that was included in previous versions. To fix that, Symantec added a Job Monitor tab for viewing the status of all backup managed by a Backup Exec server in Backup Exec 2012.

Bennett and Beer said Symantec would continue its backup appliance strategy and push ahead with NetBackup and Backup Exec appliances. Bennett didn't offer many specifics on what will change overall. He said he would spend three to four months on a "listening tour," meeting with Symantec's leadership, customers, partners and shareholders before devising a strategy for its security and storage products.

"Our assets are better than our performance and I need to learn what's getting in the way," Bennett said. He added that he wants Symantec to "get back the leadership in the future mobile-connected world that we had in the PC-desktop world."

Symantec didn't break out the revenue for individual backup and storage products, but said the storage and server management group had revenue of $584 million for the quarter, up 1% over last year. The information management business that includes backup, archiving and eDiscovery increased 6% while storage and availability management declined 8% year over year.

Salem was likely doomed by the vendor's poor stock price. Symantec lost about 19% of its value in the three years since he replaced John Thompson as Symantec CEO.

"Throughout his [19 years at Symantec], Enrique showed an incredible dedication to customers and strong enthusiasm to pursue new emerging opportunities," Bennett said. "My perspective is that while the company has very strong assets, we are under-performing against the opportunities."

Bennett, who was Intuit CEO from 2000-2007 and joined Symantec's board in 2010, said he planned to remain CEO until he is comfortable with the company's position and then stay on as chairman. He said he was on the short-list for CEO candidates when Symantec hired Salem, following a search that included candidates from outside the company. Symantec did not look at outside candidates this time when it picked Bennett.

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