Why Intel Bought McAfee

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Last week, Intel announced plans to purchase McAfee for $7.7 billion. Many people wondered exactly why a company that's nominally a chipmaker would purchase a software security outfit. Ars Technica's Jon Stokes has a sober and thorough answer to that question.

In the end, the McAfee move isn't some triple bank shot, where Intel is trying to out-security ARM in the mobile space, or whatever else the pundits have dreamed up to explain the purchase. No, it's pretty much what Intel's press release says it is: Intel wants to be (and feels that it needs to be) in the security business, period. The company thinks that they can do security better than a software vendor alone could, and they believe this because they know that security is about systems--not just hardware or software, but services, practices, policies, and user experiences and expectations.

And to make secure systems happen, Intel has to get closer to the user and to have a more pervasive part in more aspects of the user experience than it can as a parts provider. McAfee gives Intel that missing consumer-facing piece, and that's why they're buying the company at such a large premium.

Read the full story at Ars Technica.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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