The report, Western European Security Software Forecast and Competitive Vendor Shares, 2003-2008, found that the sector generated total revenues of $2.5 billion in 2003, representing growth of 17 per cent over 2002.
IDC cautioned that this apparently impressive growth rate actually marks a slowdown when seen in context with previous market increases of more than 25 percent during 2001-2002.
Thomas Raschke, program manager of IDC's European Security Products and Strategies research, said there is still healthy interest in security software in Western Europe, but companies are carefully considering their potential investments before making any commitments.
"Sales cycles are increasing, new products undergo thorough testing, and full-blown organisation-wide deployments have become the exception rather than the rule," said Raschke.
The study found that the 2003 European market proved to be a "challenging playground" for all security software vendors. It attributed these difficulties to a gap between awareness and buying intentions on one hand and economic slowdown, tougher sales conditions, and pressure from hardware solutions on the other hand.
Companies that were found have performed well in 2003 included most antivirus leaders, all anti-spam vendors, and those that focus on business problem solving like security management. Those which continued a technology-first approach on the basis of threat marketing struggled heavily.
However, IDC believes that security spending increased its share of overall IT spend - and will continue to do so as we witness more of the same: more harmful threats, more complex networks, policy and other business-critical challenges, and more demanding government regulations in Europe.
The analyst firm predicts that these factors will - despite challenging conditions - help to drive the security software market to achieve revenues of more than $5 billion in 2008, representing a compound annual growth rate of more than 15 per cent.