Intel's acquisition of McAfee – did the chip giant pay too much?

As reported yesterday by Infosecurity, under the terms of the deal, Intel will pay $48 per share in cash for McAfee, almost 60% higher than its closing price on Wednesday.

The two companies say they have been working together for 18 months on the deal and, if it passes regulatory and shareholder approval, the first new products could be revealed early next year.

Analysis of the acquisition has been widespread and mixed; with IT security vendors keen to make their own voice heard.

Perhaps the most telling analysis came late last night by 30-year veteran IT writer Robin Harris of ZDnet, who observed that Intel has never been satisfied with being the 'King of Pop Processors,' even though the firm has built an enormous and lucrative business.

"12 years ago, Intel went on another buying spree. The target was the communications market", he said, adding that everyone knew that communications and computers were converging. What could go wrong?

"Oh, it is a different business that Intel didn't understand? Who could have guessed?"

"After writing off those investments, Intel got out of the business in 2006", he noted.

The only good thing about the acquisition, says Harris, is that Intel gets a $2 billion company with 80% gross margins – not as good as Microsoft – but better than Intel's.

Philippe Courtot, chairman and CEO of Qualys, meanwhile, took a different view, noting that the deal is another example of the rapid consolidation taking place in the enterprise software industry.

It comes, he says, as traditional high-tech vendors have an increasingly harder time competing against SaaS and cloud computing offerings and can only find growth by embarking on aggressive pricing against their competitors to steal market share.

"This is precisely what McAfee did against Symantec. Intel certainly gains security expertise with this acquisition, though it is unclear at this stage how they will leverage McAfee's products", he said.

Over at Imperva, the firm's director of security strategy Rob Rachwald said that the acquisition means one thing, and that is security cannot be separated from the business.

"In the past, the objective of security was all about keeping the bad guys out while letting the good guys in. However, with the advent of insiders and as external hacking's focus shifted to data theft, the objective of security professionals changed dramatically", he said.

"Data and the transactions that moved data have meant security teams had to deploy security as a part of supply chains, online transactions and for online collaboration among customers, employees, partners and social networks", he added.

Today, he explained, how security teams view and approach their roles has changed dramatically.

"In the past, CISOs distributed anti-virus and set up firewalls. Today, they must know where data resides, where it moves and how to protect it, which requires a serious, comprehensive data security practice", he said.

"This means security teams need to become business process experts to keep the bad guys disarmed while keeping the good guys productive. With this is in mind, Intel's purchase makes a lot of sense", he added.

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