back to article Intel swallows McAfee: Why?

In its biggest acquisition ever, Intel has pledged to spend $7.6bn for security firm McAfee in a bid to add security to its portfolio of mostly chippy stuff. There are lots of stories all over webdom covering this, including the Reg's own from John Leyden. A CRN think piece discusses more background and talks about how Intel and …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    hardware sales

    If you ever needed a reason for that octo-core purchase, McCafee always seems to find a way to fill up every cycle available to your CPU.

  2. adrianww

    Sorry, maybe it's just me...

    ...but this article just reads like a combination of Intel/McAfee PR-ish fluff (which may or may not be entirely true) and statements of the bleedin' obvious - or at least readily predictable.

    Am I missing something or what?

    1. danolds

      Yeah, it's just you...

      ...when I wrote it, there wasn't much, if any, Intel/McAfee PR-ish fluff out there yet....maybe I was channeling them or the victim of some mind control beam from Intel? I'm located not far from their Hillsboro, Oregon mega-outpost, so it's certainly possible that they could have taken control of me for at least a while. I need to put another layer of aluminum foil around the west facing windows to block the beams again.

      On the 'bleedin' obvious' point...yeah, it's bleeding obvious to me too - but I wasn't seeing any of that stuff in either the press or in other discussions. Hell, I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so I'll point out the obvious all day long if I'm not seeing it in other places.

  3. James Le Cuirot


    I'm dismayed that Intel would even want to associate with CrapAfee. I'm not a Windows user but wherever I have seen their piss poor software in action, it practically grinds the machine to a halt. They were the number one reason why my Mum ditched her perfectly good laptop for another one. I took it off her hands but she wondered why I could possibly want it, seeing as it was all but unusable. It literally took 15 minutes to boot up before it would let you actually do anything and from there, it was still painful. Before giving it a new lease of life (Linux), I wanted to see whether simply removing CrapAfee would fix the problem. Well, whaddya know...

  4. Richard Porter

    Viscious (and viscose) circle

    The problem is we are getting more and more badly written software, so more and more malware that exploits it, more and more antivirus software to combat the malware, so slower and slower systems.

    What we really need is software to scan new programs before installation to look for vulnerabilities, and to reject them if they are unsafe. And of course we need to use operating systems that are designed from the bottom up to protect their own code and data from interference.

    Sadly you make more money by churning out rubbish, and then selling security software to fight off the attackers.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Microsoft couldn't write slow enough programs anymore...

      "The problem is we are getting more and more badly written software, so more and more malware that exploits it, more and more antivirus software to combat the malware, so slower and slower systems"

      Yes and who collects the money and laughs all the way to bank? Intel.

      Microsoft couldn't write slow enough programs anymore so Intel had to find new partners for doing that.

    2. Captain Save-a-ho

      Calling bullshit,,,

      We don't need software to policy software. Vote with your dollars and stop supporting bad code. Look what that did to Vista. Intel will find out what it is doing to McAfee, which is a company with a big share in its industry, yet without an edge on any of its competitors.

      There is no amount of reasoning that makes this deal make sense.

  5. Anonymous Coward


    A few points...

    "I also think we can agree that hardware-based security or hardware-assisted security is definitely faster than software-only solutions"

    There is no such thing as a hardware-based security device for most of this stuff. Any firewall, virus scanner, spam blocker, whatever, is, by definition, a software component. It might (might!) use some specialised hardware to do encryption or suchlike, but it's still essentially a software device.

    "Perhaps the biggest hurdle to cloud adoption with real-world customers is their doubts about how safe their data is in the cloud"

    And that is going to change how? Because your cloud supplier has a sticker that says "we're protected by McAfee"? Yea - that's going to work!

    The "cloud" is always going to have a problem in that it is inherently untrustworthy. I might (and it's a big might) use a "cloud" service if I could easily encrypt all my data LOCALLY before committing it. But even then, there would still be a nagging "what if..." in the back of my mind. And I'm sure I'm not alone in this. No amount of "we use McAfee" stickers is going to change this. And this doesn't even start to address any basic reliability doubts people may have.

    "Sooner still, I can see a joint network appliance – probably aimed at small business – that acts as a security Swiss Army knife"

    As you say, this exists already. Combine a decent and secure OS, pf, a decent email server, dspam, spamd, ClamAV, http proxy, snort, etc, and you have just such a device. Oh, and this is all free (apart from the hardware to run it on, of course).

    There is no way you can run all this functionality on a single (intel?) chip today, but you CAN easily run it all on a teeny embedded PC type board. If you need more grunt then get a faster PC.

    ...which is where we came in ....why?

    1. danolds

      Good points..'re right, security is of course SW based...I should have positioned the hardware component as a hardware assist via specialized hardware and not implied it's a totally hardware based solution. There's always going to be a big chunk of SW in any security solution that has to change to adapt to changing threats.

      I also agree with your cloud point. It doesn't matter who certifies what, with clouds, you're still putting your data out beyond your own firewall and data center. Even if you encrypt the data in during transmission, it's still vulnerable when it's at rest in the cloud in the vast majority of cases. There isn't anything that's going to take away that "what if..." thought in your mind. This is why I don't see cloud as a enterprise computing panecea or game changer. This puts me out of step with many in the industry, but the potential risks of cloud outweigh the benefits by a large margin in my mind. However, having a 'certified safe' cloud will persuade some folks to put stuff out there - maybe not important stuff and maybe just for overflow processing - but the vendor who seems to have the best security story will probably do better than the rest. And that means $$

      On the appliance thing - yeah, it's going to be a chipset on a board - not in a single Intel chip. I think that Intel's economies of scale in manufacturing, distribution and marketing will give them an advantage in this area.

      I think the 'why' question comes down to security (already important) rising in importance and Intel looking at a way to get a piece of that pie.

  6. Richy Freeway


    Cos they're security software is bloated shit. Gonna be needing that 6 core Intel 980x!

  7. jonathanb Silver badge

    I still say WTF

    Intel's main threats come from Nvidia/ATI in high performance sector, from ARM in the low power sector and from AMD in the budget sector. Then you've got the chips in the jobsian fondle slap which appear to deliver lower power consumption and higher graphics performance than the Atom. That's where they need to focus their attention.

    Security at silicon level means things like the no execute bit, or maybe extending the virtualisation capabilities to allow sandboxing of applications. It does not mean a hard wired copy of McAfee Virus Scan, and the skills required for hardware security are completely different to those required for anti-malware software.

    Also, McAfee, like its competitors, requires at least daily updates to definition files and regular updates to the engine to keep it functional, and the subscription fees for these updates is where it makes its money. Are we going to have to do regular firmware updates to our CPUs in future?

    Some people have suggested that McAfee will only work on Intel chips in future. That would only mean AMD customers going to Symantec in future. Most people, whether they are fans or foes of McAfee, consider Symantec to be pretty similar to McAfee in terms of how their products work.

    Any Intel shareholder who wants to participate in the future growth prospects of McAfee can already do so by buying McAfee shares. A lot of them, particularly the big mutual funds, already have, and they can buy them for 60% less than Intel is paying. This just seems to me like empire building, which is good for directors as they can justify larger salaries, but not so good for shareholders, customers or employees.

  8. Andus McCoatover

    Three "S's"

    Now I'm confused. I thought the threes S's was the male morning ritual.

    Shave, Sh*it and Shower.

    I thought Intel was into chips - indeed I cut my teeth on the 4040...

    Beats me. Is this an example of corporate "Peter Principle??"

  9. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Some thoughts

    While the reasons given kind of makes sense, they do so only in a world of really crap software. Yes, we all know that is the common place, and one has to wonder why we have the approach of throwing lots of resources at the symptoms, and not dealing with the causes in the same manner.

    Surly spending $7 billion on a OS-agnostic compiler with built in checking and blocking of the majority of security blunders would be a good idea?

    As for cloud security, my worry is not with viruses, etc, but with (a) the management of the supplier, both in terms of accidental disclosure and in terms of it being subject to foreign law (e.g. the USA's un-PATRIOT act) and (b) with the ease in the future of migrating my established multi-TB data sets and services painlessly to a better (or just less suck-y) supplier.

    Given the demands for the small, possibly battery and/or solar powered, embedded network connected devices, using a big CPU x86-style and all sorts of security hardware looks like a bad idea, compared to simple safe software and an ARM processor.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I think it's because....

      "...and one has to wonder why we have the approach of throwing lots of resources at the symptoms, and not dealing with the causes in the same manner"

      I think it's because as a species, us humans are actually quite stupid most of the time.

      But I agree - it baffles me too. Simply using more robust tools and a better underlying platform would eliminate 90% of the security problems, and that's just with using off-the-shelf stuff that's readily available today. But we all know that, don't we? ...but of course, we're stupid! :-)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AMD will be happy

    My previous company used Symantec antivirus. Used to be good in the Norton days, now it's a resource hog. Or so I thought, until my new company required that I replace it with McAfee. Now they're buying me a new laptop, because the old one simply can't cope. Every couple of minutes the CPU pegs at 100% for a minute while McAfee does something . God knows what, it's sitting on my firewalled home network where I know there are no threats (there are no other windows machines, for one thing).

    If Intel are going to stuff that bloatware into their hardware, AMD are going to be laughing. Haven't Intel learned anything from their Trillium acquistion a while back?

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Talk about grasping for reasons this deal makes sense... Just one example:

    "It would be a gateway type box that monitors and manages all internal and external networking, combining a firewall with anti-virus, anti-spam, and a host of other functions"

    How original. PaloAlto Networks.

  12. Bill B

    Intel not just Hardware

    One thing to remember is that Intel is not just a hardware company anymore. They also own Windriver, a Linux/RTOS supplier. Windriver's OS can be found in things like firewalls which is .. oh yes, a security device. They also provide and support a Linux based OS

    Whatever you may think about McAfee's software, they *do* understand the nature of the security threat, because that's their business. Maybe an integration of Intel hardware, Linux OS and Mcafee's security knowledge might make for a more highly secure networked product?

  13. alex dekker 1

    Cheaper UTM appliance

    As you say in point 4 these devices already exist; in fact so many of them exist that they're already got their own name, the Unified Threat Management appliance. The thing that costs money with these is the subscription to the update services, and Intel's manufacturing and distribution might isn't going to help with this.

  14. David Ritchie 1

    What really happend

    Head Intel Exec: "Hmm I need new Antivirus Software"... Phones Underling "Go buy McAfee!"

    A few days later

    Underling: "We've just bought McAfee"

    Head Intel Exec: "Great! What version?"

    Underling: "Version?" *GULP*

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      +10 internets. Best post on this topic so far.

  15. Colin Critch

    PC Hardware assist

    It could be possible to have dedicated CPU/Firmware/chipset in a PC that would allow a kind of pre-fetch on access AV file analysis which would speed up overall operation.

    It would require some hardened software actually on the OS being protected but would accelerate the process of file scanning. Think of it as putting a scanner between the hard disk and the disk interface on the mother board. Think of it as a hardware assist for sorting out file/memory scanning ( a bit like a graphic card GPU)

    They would use all three things AV expertise ( though not the windows version of the code ), real-time kernel Wind River and CPU/Chipset.

  16. Tzael

    What about AVG?

    So five years ago Intel purchased a 65% stake in Grisoft's AVG. Even before that though Intel had its own antivirus operation, however that was sold to Symantec in 1998. Intel has a history of working with security products both in the consumer and public authority segments.

    Is McAfee's market share so astronomically large that it is worth investing time and money into making McAfee security solutions into quality products? Given the choice between AVG and McAfee antivirus solutions I'm guessing most people here reading The Register will pick AVG for better reliability and reduced drain of system resources.

    Buying out McAfee isn't quite the same as purchasing a majority share in AVG, however I am still trying to figure out Intel's logic. Security isn't the reason for this purchase despite what the author of this article is proposing.

  17. Rob Brady

    AV is unlikely the primary motive for Intel's actions.

    Intel moving so agressively to gobble up McAfee points to this being a defensive, rather than offensive measure. So what would posess Chipzilla to blow such a huge premium on an unloved AV provider?

    Well, in March of this year McAfee were awarded this patent:- which is just broad enough to be applicable to integrating things such as the latter being something that Intel should justly be afraid of if it lives up to 10% of its billed abilities.

    What better way to mitigate the threat than own how uch a tool can be integrated into any system, and in turn give Intel leverage to licence Lyric technology at a sensible price.

    With the patent awarded in March, and how long it takes to put together an aquistion such as this the timing is at least plausible...

  18. Anonymous Coward



  19. Bounty

    Why are we comparing McAfee to AVG?

    I'd rather go find and install a virus than McAfee. At least they provide a service, (remote access) and have lower overhead.

  20. SilverWave

    7B to much time will tell.

    cant see it

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Every Intel "security feature" is targeted against the owner, not viruses

    "I also think we can agree that hardware-based security or hardware-assisted security is definitely faster than software-only solutions."

    The "security" here means of course DRM and "Trusted Computing", where _you_ as the owner are not trusted, but the criminal and Intel must do everything they can to stop _you_. They don't give a damn about bot nets: Every "security" is targeted against the owner.

    Wintel-alliance is very good at removing the administration of any PC from the owner and to the trojans. This will be a logical successor to that: Not anuthing related to prevention of the viruses.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    We have the cpu, gpu and software with deep hooks into Linux and Windows OS

    I smell "trusted computing" ... and it reeks.

  23. jsk

    Chip OS before Software OS?!?!?

    I don't get it. So, what, Itel rigs will have a chip OS between the BIOS and the full blown OS for virus detection??? For which OS? Windows (which version for which hardware), Unix, MacOS, iOS, Linux (which distro), etc, etc, etc. Yeah. That'll work.

    Or did they just blow over $7 Billion for a mediocre anti-virus vendor to help them "think" about security?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Moore's Law Insurance Policy?

    We are getting closer and closer to either a switch over to a new technology to produce computer progress or an end to speed increases and a race to low cost production on a mature process. Intel cannot compete with Asia if it loses its 1 year lead in process technology. Either way Intel faces increased risk of a process technology failure on an upcoming die shrink. If that happens then Intel will be looking for income that is independent from its chips just to keep the cash coming in. The article is correct that Intel would love to have another lock in place to keep the wolves outside their x86 cash cow. If insecure software sells computers than you can bet that Intel and Microsoft will not create tools that do anything more than mitigate the problem. In fact, with this purchase Intel is tying a revenue stream directly to insecure software. The best of all possible worlds for Intel is a maximum threat for all old computers and a moderate threat to new "improved" processors. This would maintain the high cost of new high performance chips and force another upgrade cycle onto corporations and individuals around the world. It is an old game that we should see coming from a long way off. Apple, Google, and the Linux vendors should be getting ready to call this wintel bluff. Virtual machines and high core counts in the next round of processors should make translating software a much more palatable solution than it used to be. With a little more blind greed and institutional arrogance we might even get some real competition going in the computer industry.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A better bet

    Would have been to invest $7B in re-writing the compiler that Microsoft uses so that a little type/bounds checking gets done, and then re-compile the entire OS.

  26. TeeCee Gold badge

    Oh crap.

    " pointing to 50 billion network-enabled devices in the next few years."

    I can't say I'm looking forward to the day that I can't make my toast in the morning 'cos the sodding toaster's thrown a false positive for the H0v.1s virus......

    Likewise, when Macrappy's shiteware decides part of your O/S is a bleedin' virus, you can restore and uninstall the piggin' thing. S'gonna be fun when your mobo chipset's doing it and you can't bring the damned thing up far enough for the updater to pull the fixed version of their useless definitions. This idea's got to be quite a long way up the "you haven't thought this one through" list.

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