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On McAfee

Today, Apple’s CPU/motherboard supplier Intel announced that it will acquire McAfee, in a deal worth nearly $7.7B. While this is definitely big bucks, it doesn’t seem like terrifically big security news.

Intel probably don’t want the technology. McAfee is the world’s biggest security vendor, so there are cheaper ways for Intel to acquire security technology. Intel probably don’t want a fast buck either: or if they do, they’re not about to get it. It would take around a decade for Intel’s new security software division to make its money back, assuming no huge changes in organization.

Intel may want the IP. McAfee has an extensive patent portfolio (as do all the big players in the cold war world of security software), there’s bound to be things that Intel could implement in silico. Jokes have already been doing the rounds on Twitter of a new CPU opcode, SCANAV. Encryption and data tagging seem more likely targets. But couldn’t they just license the patents?

I expect that what Intel are after is to make the company a one-stop IT shop, with security software being just one element in that. Large businesses and government in particular value having a small network of large, stable, boring, trusted partners. We’ve already seen in the last couple of years that the likes of Cisco, HP and Oracle have been shifting toward “vertical” provision of IT services. Intel now have a few different software houses under their wing, and of course McAfee brings a vast collection of juicy business customers. What Paul Ottelini is likely hoping is that such customers will start looking to Intel for other services, and maybe hardware too. And that Intel’s existing customers will buy into McAfee’s security offerings.

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