Is Intel buying an also-ran?

A poor showing for McAfee's software in independent test results adds to the general 'huh?' reaction to the Intel-McAfee merger

I'm still reeling over Intel's offer to buy McAfee at a 60 percent premium over its stock price. I've been following both companies -- and struggling with their products -- for a couple of decades. As best as I can tell, they have just one thing in common: They're both headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif.

But reactions so far miss an important detail about McAfee that should give one pause. McAfee just failed AV-Test certification for Windows 7.

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AV-Test is widely regarded as the industry's definitive independent testing service: "During the 2nd quarter of 2010 we have tested 19 security products in the areas protection, repair and usability. ... 13 products have fulfilled our requirements and received an AV-Test certificate." McAfee Internet Security 2010 failed, primarily because of its inability to clean and repair infected PCs.

Intel obviously believes the McAfee approach to security will drive sales of something. And certainly the future of the antivirus software industry appears rosy. But perhaps someone at Intel might have checked those AV-Test results before pulling out the checkbook.

So far, Intel's stock has taken a drubbing in reaction to the news. It's easy to see why. The two companies' histories are diametrically dissimilar; they sell to completely different markets; their internal structures and cultures are analogous to Venus and Mars; and the kinds of people who excel in one environment wouldn't get two shakes in the other. Or so it seems to me.

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