Other analysts agree that the Intel-McAfee deal will have its biggest impact on the mobile space, where Microsoft is only beginning to renew its presence through initiatives such as Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7-equipped tablet PCs. "The rise of tablets and mobile phone-based computing will bring with it increased demand for software intelligence that is embedded at the hardware level," Alan B. Krans, an analyst with Technology Business Research, wrote in an Aug. 19 research note. "All security vendors have recognized and responded in some way to the mobile computing security threat, but offerings are not currently prevalent in the market."In February, Nokia and Intel announced MeeGo, a Linux-based software platform that supports multiple hardware architectures across multiple platforms, including phones, tables, netbooks, Web-connected televisions and in-vehicle infotainment systems. According to one analyst, Intel's McAfee acquisition stands to affect the MeeGo initiative in significant ways. "My expectation is that this [acquisition] will be more focused on MeeGo, as the smartphone platforms are very vulnerable to viruses," Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, wrote in an Aug. 19 e-mail to eWEEK. "Intel is moving to assure that MeeGo has a security advantage in a hostile world and can stand out sharply against the alternatives. They will also likely use this to help differentiate other offerings and rewrite the code to best take advantage of Intel's architecture." According to Enderle, this is where the acquisition could alter Intel's competitive profile with regard to not only other security companies and processor vendors, but also Microsoft: "While AMD will be hit, the primary target is ARM. Microsoft will likely see this as a threat to Windows Phone 7 but Intel is already at odds with them there and Microsoft is more concerned with Apple and Google." In July, Microsoft signed an agreement with ARM to extend the two companies' relationship. "Microsoft is an important member of the ARM ecosystem, and has been for many years," ARM CTO Mike Muller wrote in a July 23 statement. "With this architecture license, Microsoft will be at the forefront of applying and working with ARM technology in concert with a broad range of businesses addressing multiple application areas." That statement offered no specific details about the agreement, but a number of analysts and pundits suspected that the "multiple application areas" could include tablets and smartphones-areas of substantial interest to Intel as well as companies such as Hewlet-Packard, Lenovo and Google. Indeed, some analysts see Intel's McAfee acquisition as potential leverage in the chip-maker cementing a deal with Google. "I would expect Intel to lay this solution on top of Android for Atom," Enderle added, "to help motivate Google toward Intel technology for that platform and the Chrome OS as well." In other words, the Intel-Microsoft relationship may undergo little direct change in the wake of the McAfee acquisition; but should Intel leverage that deal in order to compete against ARM, and attract Google, it could potentially affect Microsoft in more far-flung ways. Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a comment from Microsoft.
The demand for mobile security, Krans wrote, will only increase in coming months and years. "Intel's acquisition of McAfee may not have a profound impact in the PC market, but could allow both Intel and McAfee to benefit significantly from rising demand for embedded mobile security that has a minimal impact on device performance."