Gartner: Intel/McAfee Deal Is A Surprise

We knew McAfee was up for sale, but Intel’s purchase could raise the authorities’ eyebrows if it makes anti-competitive moves, says Gartner’s Bob Walder

Today’s announcement that Intel is to buy security company McAfee was a surprise, and could lead to trouble from other security companies and the authorities, if Intel starts to build protection into systems from the outset, according to a Gartner analyst.

The security industry could be changed by today’s announcement that Intel intends to by McAfee for $7.7 billion (£4 bn), and it came as a surprise to most people.

A surprising deal

“My first reaction was surprise,” said Bob Walder, Gartner’s Research Director, Infrastructure Protection EMEA, speaking to eWEEK Europe UK.

“Rumours regarding Mcafee have abounded for a while now so there was no surprise that it has been acquired, especially as they have been hawking themselves around for a while now. But the surprise for me is who has brought them.”

Walder felt that there were a couple of more obivious suitors for McAfee, with HP being the obvious one, which he would have put money on.

There is a lot of convergence between security and other markets, with EMC owning RSA, HP owning TippingPoint, and IBM owning ISS, but this particular deal may be hotly contested by rivals because of Intel’s fundamental role in the industry.

Will the deal be criticised, and perhaps examined by regulators? “That was my reaction,” said Walder. “Symantec is going to be very unhappy about this and I can see the EU being slightly miffed as well, given Intel’s dominant position in PCs.”

“The fact that if endpoint protection is built in from the outset, will prove to be damaging for Symantec and others, especially if Intel is serious about moving into the secure customer computing model” said Walder.

“That has to be the main thrust here,” said Walder. “In the past Intel has been talking about secure lock down browsing, bypassing Internet Explorer etc, but there are many different directions they can go in with this. What doesn’t make sense is Intel paying $7 billion in small change, which seems to me a bit of overkill. That said, it gets them up to speed pretty quickly.”

What was McAfee’s problem?

But why was McAfee looking for a buyer? “There has been feeling for a while that McAfee was overvalued, and it was struggling with Symantec at the high end, i.e. end point protection solutions for enterprises,” said Walder. “At the low end they were also competing with the likes of Kaspersky and Sophos, so they were struggling on all sides.”

“What worries me about the acquisition, is that McAfee’s IntruShield does not fit with Intel. I am hoping IntruShield [a McAfee intrusion prevention device, designed to stop zero-day exploits and denial of service attacks] is not left languishing in the bowels of Intel, and I hope they spin it out instead.”