Microsoft Rumored To Buy Symantec. Why Would It Bother?

Last Updated Sep 8, 2010 5:28 PM EDT

Sometimes I hear a rumor that sounds like it's landed from another planet. Today's is Microsoft (MSFT) might buy Symantec (SYMC). Perhaps this is making stocks move and hearts go pit-a-pat, but it sounds like one of the goofiest ideas you could hear.

At first blush -- sure, maybe there's a fit between the company that produces the most widely used PC operating system in the world and a security company. Especially when Microsoft products have the reputation for being the favorite targets of hackers and digital criminals. But let's use a little reason here.

First, Symantec has often received its licks over performance issues. Even though the newest version of the Norton Internet Security product is supposed to be significantly faster than earlier ones, it still isn't at the highest rate of malware detection and it's still not the lightest weight on a CPU.

Second, Microsoft already has its own security products, including Security Essentials and its firewall. I actually use the former ever since finding it was the only of several products I tried to be able to remove a pernicious redirect virus. Not only do the products work, but Microsoft is already giving them away. Clearly it hasn't wanted to enter the pay-or-pray Windows security market. Why start now? And if it's not going to sell products for which it already has counterparts, why buy them in the first place?

Yes, McAfee (MFE) sold -- to Intel(INTC). Maybe a chip company like AMD (AMD) might consider a purchase to offset any apparent leverage that Intel might get. But if you were going to buy a security company for that reason, why not go with one that has even faster technology?

This sounds like another of the period frenzies you see when investors are unhappy with the performance. Or maybe when they're really ticked that Symantec plans to hold a virtual-only annual shareholders meeting, keeping the board out of direct confrontation, and arms' reach. Just think of it as another type of security.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.