Making Sense of Intel and McAfee

What this acquisition is and is not

It's been a few days since Intel's surprising McAfee acquisition announcement. This weekend I took time to read what others were saying about the merger and there seems to be a lot of posturing and confusion out there. Here is a short list of some of the misconceptions: 1. Intel is buying McAfee for mobile security. This may have stragtegic merit but mobile security can't possibly be a major motivation. Why? The whole mobile security market is extremely fragmented and worth a few $100 million today. McAfee recently acquired its way into mobile security so internal efforts are a work-in-progress. Rather than spend $7.7 billion on McAfee, Intel could have grabbed a vendor like Good Technology or Mobile Active Defense for a fraction of what it paid for McAfee. By comparison, Juniper just picked up SMobile for $70 million. 2. Intel will bundle McAfee security functionality into vPro. Intel vPro has some security functionality for cryptography and secure communications but nothing else. Why not integrate McAfee desktop security and even Safeboot encryption? Intel actually tried this for years with lots of partners and then buried the effort as if it never happened. I have to imagine that development was too difficult and too costly to proceed. I don't think the McAfee acquisition changes anything. 3. Intel wants to create hardware/software bundles for consumers. Some people think this will center around distribution alone while others believe that Intel will create a vPro-like chip for consumer PCs. Neither of these things will happen. Consumer vPro won't happen because it is too hard to do. Bundling won't happen because of anti-trust. If bundling was possible, Microsoft would have done it 2 years ago. Many of the smartest financial and industry analysts can't make heads or tails out of this deal and I can understand their confusion. There really are no obvious synergies between the two technologies. Nevertheless, I believe that the security market is in transition where new products will need a whole new level of scale, intelligence, integration, and enterprise-class sophistication. The "new" security market will start abruptly and grow to over $1 billion extremely quickly. Intel wants a piece of this transition as well as portfolio diversification. It's that simple.

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