Forrester analyst Andrew Jaquith questions the whole premise of tying security so tightly to hardware. "Most enterprises take the least-common-denominator approach to managing their computing assets," he wrote in a blog post. "This is largely because refresh cycles cause hardware platforms to stick around much longer than software-based ones: it is easier to push down a software update than to pull a motherboard. I am not convinced that a hardware-based strategy for security will resonate with enterprise buyers. If you need convincing, ask yourself: how many of the PCs in your organization run Intel vPro-capable hardware? Don't know the answer? Right: this is exactly my point. Despite Intel's efforts to add more differentiating "professional" features on and around their core processor silicon, these are seen as a bonus, rather than the centerpiece of enterprise management strategies. It is hard to see how 'McAfee Inside' would work out any differently."
Allan Krans, senior analyst for Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H., says the deal is not without challenges, but does think it could result in IT shops seeing a difference in how security is delivered.
"The prospect is clearly there to embed more security features right into the chipset, whereas now a lot resides above the hardware and even operating system level," he says. "Some of the security features customers currently pay separately for may be embedded in the hardware as a result of this acquisition."
Krans says the deal reminds him of EMC's RSA buyout in that EMC wound up "building in rather than bolting on security...[Buying McAfee] will enable Intel to streamline the delivery of more security functionality and also differentiate its hardware offerings in the market."
Intel-McAfee impact on software security market
The proposed buyout also raises many questions regarding the security software market, which Gartner expects will grow as much as 11.3% to $16.5 billion this year. McAfee - with about $2 billion in revenue last year and 6,100 employees - is currently the No.2 company in the market behind Symantec, but a hungry pack of vendors including Trend Micro, IBM, HP and Cisco is also fighting for its share, with HP earlier in the week snapping up software assurance company Fortify.