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Intel drawn to vibrant security software market

McAfee buyout presents new challenge to Symantec and other security software players

By , Network World
August 19, 2010 01:10 PM ET

Network World - Despite a lackluster economy, the worldwide security software industry just keeps growing. Led by Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro, IBM and EMC, total industry sales are projected to hit at least $16.5 billion this year, up 11.3% from 2009, according to Gartner.

Into this security sales fest steps Intel with its Thursday morning announcement that it plans to acquire McAfee for $7.68 billion. Intel CEO Paul Otellini indicated that the companies have been working closely over the past 18 months and hinted that security features related to Intel processors will arrive by early next year.

"Everywhere we sell a microprocessor, there's an opportunity for a security suite," Otellini said during a press conference on the planned buyout, adding there could be further integration of McAfee technologies into Intel products.

In a blog post, George Kurtz, McAfee's worldwide CTO and executive vice president, pointed to whitelisting capabilities of SolidCore, a McAfee acquisition, as a good fit with Wind River, the embedded and mobile software vendor that Intel acquired last year.

Intel sees a huge future in the advance of mobile devices and McAfee has also made it a priority this year to further its mobile management and security strategy via acquisitions of its own.

McAfee, which will operate as a separate subsidiary, is Intel's pick to complement the work Intel has already done on its hardware-based security, vPro. But Otellini did stress during the press conference that Intel is also open to working with other security vendors.

Still, a Intel-McAfee union could mean a tougher security software market for big and small vendors alike.

Symantec, whose products extend into storage, backup and services, holds just over 20% of the security software market worldwide, and while that's not bad, it's actually down from the 24.11% share it had in 2007 and the company recently warned of cautiousness among tech buyers. Not only are traditional rivals such as McAfee and Trend Micro bearing down, but IBM, EMC/RSA and Cisco now seem more determined to play the role of main security vendor for the enterprise.

In this superheated competition, IBM also plays the role of partner to both Symantec and McAfee at times, and giant HP is a conduit to the customer through its security-services division gained through the EDS acquisition.

"The competitive landscape for us is changing," acknowledged Bill Robbins, Symantec executive vice president of worldwide sales, recently discussing the overall market.

Symantec itself just spent many millions to buy PGP, GuardianEdge and VeriSign's authentication business to get encryption and certificate technologies. (Trend Micro will soon be unveiling some encryption-related plans as well.)

Such diversification isn't a bad idea, since selling security to the enterprise is increasingly a matter of having lots of different enticements to offer the customer -- sometimes a giveaway in a bundled offering. "I've seen deals where the encryption is free," noted Gartner analyst Neil McDonald discussing the topic recently.

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