Fierce software rivals Symantec and Network Associates are unveiling duelling new 'suites', bundling together some of their best-selling PC utility programs. Both companies are emulating the example of Microsoft, which dominates the market for productivity software for the PC through its integrated Microsoft Office package, even as they gird themselves against encroachment from the software giant. Network Associates claims that buyers of its McAfee Office suite will save 70 per cent compared with buying all of the included products separately, while Symantec claims buyers of Norton Systemworks will save 40 per cent. Both software packages combine popular functions such as Windows 95/98 system management utilities, virus protection and hard disk crash protection. Norton Systemworks includes well-known programs like Norton Utilities and Norton Antivirus, as well as newer offerings such as Uninstall Deluxe and Crashguard, in a single $1,037 package, which is temporarily available for $799. For those who already own any of the individual applications, an upgrade version costs $468. McAfee Office, from Network Associates, combines VirusScan, encryption software called PGP Security, an Internet-performance enhancer called Hurricane, a Year 2000 fix-it called 2000 Toolbox, and more. It will cost $749 when it is available late next month. Network Associates' local sales manager Ringo Poon said Office was more powerful. 'Systemworks doesn't have encryption. It doesn't have a Y2K fix. It doesn't speed up Internet performance,' he said. But Lyn Tran, regional product marketing manager for Symantec, said Systemworks had the advantage of being a 'true integrated suite with a lot of intelligence'. For example, if Norton Utilities discovered that a PC's hard disk space was running low, it would pop up a warning box and offer the user the chance to run the Uninstall component to reclaim some space, she said. Mr Poon disagreed, arguing that neither product was deeply integrated. 'True integration is, as in Microsoft Office, [when] data that is changed in Word automatically gets updated and changed in a linked Exchange file,' he said. Besides raising the stakes against each other, both companies, by producing suites, are defending the utility software market as a whole against Microsoft, which has already killed off certain utility software categories by building them into Windows. But unlike Microsoft, neither Symantec nor Network Associates enjoy the advantage of controlling the operating system. Both firms hope to garner most of their revenue through sales to consumers, a more profitable but more arduous strategy. Microsoft, conversely, mostly licences PC makers to pre-install their software. But will customers bite? While prices seem irresistibly low, experts note that some of the bundled software titles duplicate each other's functions. Nevertheless, both firms insist customers are getting a good deal. 'We did a lot of market research, and we think we've got what customers want,' Ms Tran said. She denied Symantec's move to suites was motivated by weak sales of some of its newer products. She also said no individual titles would be phased out. 'We will continue to promote and sell the individual products because otherwise people won't see value in the suite,' she said. Mr Poon said offering suites was also a defensive strategy. 'By bundling [a program] in our suite, we can keep the customer from buying the competitor's version,' he said.