August 20, 2010, 11:50 AM — The news of Intel acquiring McAfee for nearly $8 billion caught the tech world off guard and perplexed analysts at face value. The fact is that it doesn't make much sense based on the Intel and McAfee of today, but as the dust settles the deal makes more sense when viewed as a visionary shift with an eye on where technology is headed--everywhere.
Intel is synonymous with processors and hardware chipsets. When people hear the "Intel Inside" slogan, the first they think of is personal computers. Intel hardware has become so ubiquitous in the personal computer arena that even Apple made the switch to "Intel Inside" for its Mac systems. But, that's today.
McAfee is synonymous with security. It doesn't enjoy the same virtual monopoly on its industry that Intel does, but McAfee is still easily one of the top computer security companies. When people hear "McAfee", the first thing they think of is antivirus software and protecting PCs (most likely with "Intel Inside"). But, that's today.
The challenge for the future of Intel is that the relevance of the PC is waning in an increasingly mobile world. Intel may be dominant in PC architecture, but in the world of netbooks, smartphones, and tablet PCs, Intel is an underdog and faces stiff competition from rival platforms.
The challenge for McAfee is to remain relevant in a security arena that offers little distinction between competitors. The need for antimalware protection and other security measures on personal computers won't fade any time soon, but the concept has become a commodity. There is a wide array of choices and they all offer essentially the same protection.
The advantage McAfee has, though--and perhaps one of the factors that made it appealing to Intel--is that it has already been aggressively expanding beyond the traditional PC security model. McAfee has been working to transform security from a reactionary, defensive posture, to a proactive, offensive strategy, and it has already had its eye on securing mobile products.