As an intro to this, let me say that my remarks are NOT intended to be abrasive or uncivil. I hate smileys, but if I used them, my post here would be plastered with smiles, grins, and winks (text kind), all over. I haven't taken your remarks as abrasive, so I think we are both in the spirit of "lively debate, but civil", as HTG is known for.
And, I DON'T think that we are going off-topic here because the OP asked for recommendations on choosing software. So this debate might offer the OP some chance to form an opinion.
BTW, I'm not directing any comments to Norton . . . I've never tried it (other suites, yes), so I can't speak as knowledgeably about it as you can. I'm just directing my comments to security suites in general. Perhaps Norton is an exception to my opinion.
So, with "lively debate and civility" mode ON, here goes.
If one defines "bloatware" as a product with a lot of unnecessary features and/or "an enhanced user interface" (read GUI), AND if that's the definition you're using, then I disagree with your statement implying (I think, if I'm wrong correct me) that the number of lines of code can make something bloatware.
Using the lure of "new and improved" is a tactic used by marketers to move shrinkwrapped software off the shelves . . . IOW, bells and whistles.
It may take more code to introduce these "new and improved" features or GUI, however simply introducing more lines of code does NOT necessarily make a product bloatware. To me, it really depends on whether the added features in reality are useful (I think you said as much: "Suite's come with 'stuff' one might not want" and I certainly agree), or rather if they're the same old core dressed up in fancy new new clothing . . . the marketing tactic. (And, no, I'm not accusing you of being a shill for suites or otherwise trying to "market" them based on price deals . . . THAT is totally unrelated to issues of bloatware, and I don't see your intention as "marketing" anyway, just trying to help the OP.)
Person A may look at your machine and decide it's full of bloatware simply because the software is full of features that they consider useless, while Person B may disagree. And just because Person B is a more experienced user than Person A does not necessarily mean B is "right". (There is NO right or wrong to an opinion . . . I think the moon is beautiful, you think maybe it's ugly. Can either of us "prove" it? No, because it's an opinion. Support it? Yes. Prove it? No.)
One man's bloatware may be another man's efficiently coded package. As I said, I don't think the number of lines of code is the determining factor for "bloatware". AND, as you said anyway, "ALMOST ANY on today's systems with multi-core CPU's with enough RAM do NOT load down a system". (We agree on that part, though the OP didn't say what his/her system/machine was . . . old or new.)
So, can I "prove" that I think standalones have an advantage in bloat? No, of course not, because it's an opinion. It's an opinion based on how I see suits marketed AND have tried them myself.
As far as what I'm "implying" . . . well, if the marketers have their way (and they often do to the disgust of the developer), yes they do it "on purpose", and they probably ARE rushing the thing out the door bloated because their ad copy AND timing to beat competitors is complete. Do they care? Probably more about their bonuses based on sales more than the end user, though I can't jump into their heads and magically determine motivation. Getting into the head of a marketer is not something I would want to do anyway.
On that first link you provided, I saw this: "On the other hand, suites may have strong features mixed with weaker ones". That seems to confirm my opinion that standalones do their single job better.
On the rest of those links . . . well, you're going to supply links that support your arguments, and I'm going to supply links that support my side. Like I just did above and:
Excerpts: ". . . If you think about it, a large, bloated software package is a set of restraints applied by a sadistic, rubber-clad captor. We know the solution can do anything, but to use it for those few things we want to do we are asked to submit to the master's will and buy not just the application but also new PCs capable of running the software." (A bit dramatic for my tastes, though.)
And, ". . . This is the software equivalent of a street crime: if you want to live, you hand over your money, but what you end up paying for is what you already had in the first place. That's the built-in obsolescence of the old software upgrade model larger developers love so much. And while you don't need to upgrade immediately, you know that you will do so eventually, if only because older solutions compatible with your PC/Mac are no longer available."
And, ". . . just like the PCs we use to drive those bloated, system-taxing suites . . ."
Excerpt: ". . . Many anti-virus software suites are big sources of bloat . . ."
So, what does all that "prove"? Just proves we are both good at using the University of Google to support our positions, NOTHING more. For example, in the Browser wars, you can find plenty of links and studies that say IE is better than Firefox (never mind that most of those studies were funded by MS . . . and you can also find plenty of links and studies that say Firefox is better than IE, funded by . . . guess who . . . Mozilla). I agree with you that ". . . results are usually suspect."
What I'm saying is that ANY Internet sourced review can be cited to support ANY argument. Consequently, I form my own opinion from my experience, NOT information I find on the Internet. I'm not saying that citing Internet information is dishonest or otherwise fraudulent. Indeed, I use some Internet information to form an opinion, but when personal experience trumps it, I trust myself above the Internet.
Now that last link you cited, CNet . . . surely you're not suggesting CNet is the final word on suites? Your not suggesting that "Editors Choice awards" are, are you? That's like having the Fox guard the Chickens.
But at the end of the day, is it about PROTECTION (as you suggested)? Yes, I agree that it is. It's just that I believe that better protection is provided by standalones rather than suites. I think we pretty much agree on everything except standalones versus suites.
Let me close by once more saying that my tone is not meant to be abrasive or uncivil . . . just a lively debate.