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Intel's McAfee acquisition a mobile play

Agam Shah | Aug. 20, 2010
McAfee could be Intel's ticket to success in the mobile market

"While many look at Intel as a PC company, that is too narrow a focus for the future and Windows is only an important but decreasing share of Intel's market long term," Gold said.

Intel's move to acquire McAfee is primarily a cloud play, said Rich Mogull, an analyst with the Securosis research firm, via instant message.

"For cloud in particular, and a bit of mobile, this stuff needs to be embedded in the hardware," he said.

But like some analysts, Mogull said that Intel may have overpaid for McAfee.

"I don't think the value is there -- on the cloud front they will always have to give competition access to the hardware. In mobile, the platform is controlled more by the software/phone providers."

Intel already offers security features through its vPro platform for enterprise PCs, and technology to protect PCs from getting stolen. But questions remain on how Intel will implement McAfee's features in its hardware.

Intel could start off by designing its hardware to work better with McAfee software, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. It takes time for chip designers to program, develop and implement changes inside silicon, so hardware-level implementations could take three to four years.

Some features could include security implementations at the BIOS or instruction-set levels, Brookwood said. It may be easier to implement features like pattern-matching at the hardware level. On the other hard, it would be hard to directly embed algorithms like signatures that help detect virus code, as they need to be frequently updated.

But Intel now has the mechanism to implement security features in its chips, Brookwood said. The first step was to bring the companies under the same roof so they could start planning the changes.

"A little nudge now could result in big changes in four or five years," Brookwood said.

Intel owned an antivirus business, but sold it to Symantec in 1998. McAfee already offers security software for deployment in embedded and mobile devices, and recently announced plans to acquire security companies focused on the mobile market. In July, McAfee announced that it had agreed to acquire security company TenCube, a mobile security company. In June, the company acquired Trust Digital, a provider of enterprise mobility management and security software.

(Robert McMillan in San Francisco contributed to this article.)


 

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