Intel is finally canning the McAfee brand name three and a half years after its $7.7bn (£4.7bn) acquisition of the security vendor, a move that has been cautiously welcomed by partners.
Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich used his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas yesterday to announce that McAfee products will be transitioned to the new Intel Security brand.
Intel also plans to begin offering elements of McAfee's security solutions for mobile devices free of charge, Krzanich added, with more details set to be announced in the coming months.
McAfee's familiar red shield will be retained, at least for now, he added.
It was always likely the McAfee brand would have a limited shelf-life when Intel acquired the firm in August 2010 – indeed, some onlookers have expressed surprise that Intel has not moved to integrate its conquest more deeply and quickly.
However, unwanted associations with the recent antics of colourful founder John McAfee (pictured, right) – who left the business in 1994 – will only have strengthened Intel's desire to distance itself from the brand.
"The complexity of keeping digital identities safe grows as mobile applications and devices become a more important part of our daily lives," Krzanich said. "Intel's intent is to intensify our efforts dedicated to making the digital world more secure, and staying ahead of threats to private information on mobile and wearable devices."
Partners take stock
Cris Pikes, chief executive of UK McAfee partner Sysec, urged Intel to tread lightly during the rebranding process.
"It makes sense for McAfee to do this now, at the start of a new financial year and under a new chief executive wanting to make his mark on the company," he said. "As long as the technology itself, as well as the vision and strategy, doesn't change, we are happy.
"My only concern is if they start rebranding all the product suites without thought, which would cause confusion for partners bidding on business, and the customers."
Pikes backed the prospect of free mobile security software, arguing it is a sign that Intel is prepared to sustain losses in order to steal a march in the fragmented mobile device market.
"This is a tactical move by Intel. McAfee couldn't have afforded to do this on its own," he said.
Mark Evans, UK country manager at McAfee partner Integrity Solutions, said canning the McAfee brand was a risk but that deeper integration with Intel is desirable.
"It's dangerous to lose the McAfee brand altogether as every global enterprise has McAfee somewhere in their business," he said.
"My guess is that Intel will push hard on that mobile device piece. Embedding McAfee technology into the chipset will potentially buy it a massive market share at the source of the device being sold, rather than the application. With other parts of the IT security market becoming more competitive, this is a good way for them to differentiate themselves."
Neil Langridge, marketing manager at security distributor e92plus, said: "The anti-virus and end-point security market is a very tough one that is often brand-led. Intel have a great reputation in technology and engineering, but it will be an interesting challenge to encompass the McAfee range into that, and help support their VARs in making that change.
"It will also restart the interest in where Intel will be taking the technology, and whether it can become truly embedded in the hardware – and where that might leave the partners."
David Lannin, director of technology at McAfee partner Sapphire, said: "When we think Intel, we think of the microprocessing and chip manufacturing industry, not IT security. Even since their acquisition of McAfee they've done nothing to detract from what is essentially a long-standing and established brand, firmly associated with endpoint security solutions.
"I suspect this might be partly to do with the antics of the previous founder, who seems to have moved from IT security into comedy; a transition that several other security organisations have also taken over the last few years."
Guy Blackman, sales director at McAfee partner Axial Systems, said: "If Intel do rebrand the entire business I think this could be a good thing. Intel has very significant brand recognition and stands for forward looking, innovation and development."
"McAfee has struggled to move from being seen as an anti-virus company to a complete ‘connected security' organisation. McAfee now have a very strong portfolio of complementary security solutions and when taken together, can demonstrate real cost and performance benefits. They are just not very good at getting that message out to the Enterprise. If they set out McAfee's strategy and deliverables as part of the rebranding and link it to the Intel brand image (innovation, development etc) it will be a good thing. "
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