Intel Buys McAfee for $7.6B: Why I’m Cautiously Pessimistic

Just read the news about Intel buying McAfee for $7.6B. John Chambers of Cisco is always cautiously optimistic about how events will unfold. Here are three reasons why I’m cautiously pessimistic about the Intel/McAfee deal.

Intel buying McAfee smells like a (hypervisor) monopoly. Intel and Citrix were working on creating a client hypervisor ecosystem, of which McAfee was developing a hypervisor security “appliance”. Creating an ecosystem is a fantastic idea, Intel. Ecosystems create innovation through competition. So why did you just buy a vendor in that space, and close off everyone else? Bad Microsoft Intel, bad!

Security software is notoriously CPU intensive, so why buy the hand that feeds you? Weekly virus scans. Hard drive encryption. All of these tank the user experience, which is why we buy faster, more powerful processors. So why did Intel buy McAfee? Maybe to make their software even more notoriously CPU intensive?

Security can’t be commoditized. This is a contentious position, but I’m open for debate. Security is a never-ending 2-fold proposition. The external threats are dynamic and ever changing. And the quality required for security vendors to respond to those threats is a signifcant undertaking (see McAfee’s DAT file causing XPSP3 reboots debacle). You can’t just burn behavioral heuristics into a chip. Does that mean we’ll have to flash a BIOS or EEPROM everytime there’s an update to McAfee? That doesn’t scale.

While I’m bearish on the deal, it can’t be all bad. One thing I’m looking forward to?

Offload Encryption into a chip (aka bring back Danbury, Intel!). AES-256 is a standard. Intel, why not get back to building encryption into a chip? But please, don’t use Safeboot to manage it. Ugh…

Hardware vendors getting into the software game is an interesting precedent. I’m curious to see how other vendors in the space react. If I ever get commenting to work on this thing, I’d be curious what your thoughts were.

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Posted at 9:21am
Tagged Intel Microsoft McAfee Encryption



  1. wilorinion posted this