Clearly Intel -- which has fallen behind in the mobile chip market -- sees security as a way to get in on the smartphone madness. Smartphones are forecast to surpass PCs in 2011, and mobile devices will become the most popular way to access the Web in 2013, according to Gartner.
The acquisition could indicate Intel is desperate, even panicking, to get a chip on every phone. The company gave mobile far more ink in its press release than other consumer technologies. "This acquisition is consistent with our software and services strategy to deliver an outstanding computing experience in fast-growing business areas, especially around the move to wireless mobility," said Renée James, a senior vice president at Intel and the general manager of the group that will absorb McAfee.
In the end, McAfee may get a better deal from Intel but a better future from an acquirer such as HP. A high-level system and service vendor would avoid the sticky situation that Intel now finds itself in. It's certainly true that security has become a pillar of modern information technology -- and Intel's assertion that it's a third pillar is a good one -- but a platform vendor tying itself to a single software provider is always a risky proposition. The chip maker has to be sure that this deal does not turn its third pillar into a third rail.