Intel recently acquired (subject to approval) McAfee one of the leading (but not leader) in the area of computer security. The is a well thought out article in Forbes by Ed Sperling which you can read here. I have been reading a lot of article criticizing this move my former employer. As readers of this blog know I am often critical of Intel. Frankly, I think the company has displayed a lack of leadership (sorry Paul) and has been going sideways for the last ten years or so (ever since I left some may say…joke). I believe that security and protection is both an opportunity for Intel and by its absence a limitation to Intel and all the other computer companies. I don’t mean just protection for virus and hacking or even content protect. I personally have a much broader view of this which I will write about when I finally finish “Ten Trends for Ten Years” a project I am working on for myself.
I remember getting Intel to put in a processor ID which meant that each processor was unique. I saw how this could be used to provide protection but when customers found out about it, they screamed. They thought we were going to use it to track what they were doing. I wish I could remember when this happened and which processor. I know this happend again in 1999 but I am pretty sure this was the second time. Later, at what is now Intel Capital, I invested in in RSA. Sometime later, we made the first investment in Verisign. I saw Verisgn as a very important ingredient in making the internet safe for commerce. I think we invested just a million or so and sold our interest later for 100s of millions. But Intel did not take advantage of our special relationship with Verisign unfortunately.
About three years ago I had an opportunity to share some of my thinking with a senior members of Intel’s management about strategies that could be taken to increase growth. One of the things I pushed was security. I doubt that my suggestions had anything to do with their decision. They stopped listening to me the day I walked out the door or even earlier. But I am happy the reach the same conclusion.
Now I hope that they can make the acquisition a success. The will be a tall order. It is very hard to make acquisitions work and especially difficult for companies like Intel that are very internally focused. But Renee James who will be the responsible person at Intel for McAfee is a very capable and if anyone there can make it work, she can. I wish her luck.