The most surprising aspect of Intel Corp.’s purchase of McAfee Inc. on Thursday was how well the company kept the acquisition a secret. The least surprising part was the reaction the move garnered in the blogosphere.
Some bloggers loved the move, while others hated it.
ZDNet storage blogger Robin Harris was firmly in the “hated it” camp. He chronicled Intel’s previous buying sprees in the communications and consumer electronics market and how both plans failed to pan out.
Harris wrote that there’s nothing at McAfee that Intel couldn’t use by simply licencing it for a billion or less, adding that the latest buy continues to show that being the “King of Processors” just isn’t good enough for Intel.
“Intel is a great company and a fabulous success despite their core incompetency: fuzzy thinking about things that aren’t processors or process technology,” he wrote. “Chasing purely technical solutions to security when much of the problem is the wetware punching the buttons is doomed.”
“Stepwise enhancements — yes. Significant competitive advantage — no.”
He added that the bright side of the deal will be that McAfee’s smart employees will take the Intel cash and start their own companies.
ComputerWorld U.S. blogger Richi Jennings had other ideas on the deal, outlining his theory on the future of anti-virus protection and how it could fit into Intel’s chip business.
“No matter how clever the malware detection, it’s still fundamentally running on top of an operating system platform that can’t be trusted,” he wrote. “Whether it’s Windows, Mac OS, or Linux, malware detection is still only software, which can be defeated with enough cleverness; for example, rootkits, bootkits, and VMBRs.”
A better way of detecting known malicious code or behaviour, he added, was to do the detection in the hardware.
“With some fairly lightweight additions, an Intel-based motherboard could fingerprint patterns of behavior and send them for analysis to a central service, without recourse to the operating system,” Jennings wrote. “If malicious intent were detected, the service would respond with a suggested action, such as displaying a warning video overlay, disconnection from the network, or even an emergency shutdown.”
This would probably require an all-Intel CPU+chipset solution on the motherboard, he wrote, which would handily lock out chipset competitors, such as NVIDIA.
“Unless FTC regulation requires Intel to license such technology, of course,” Jennings added.
InfoWorld blogger Robert Lemos wasn’t as optimistic.
“There is no clear combination of security technology and Intel’s products that would justify the risk of alienating other software and system makers,” he wrote. “If Intel sought security talent — people in short supply these days — any number of smaller companies could have been acquired to fill the chip giant’s ranks.”
He added that the deal smells like a desperate attempt by Intel to gain some ground in the mobile chip market, using security as a way to entice handset makers to put Intel chips on their phones.