Goodbye McAfee brand, hello ‘Intel Security’

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich

The days of McAfee, the brand, are numbered. Nearly three years after being bought by Intel, the iconic security brand will start being phased out and replaced by a new identity, “Intel Security,” reflecting the deeper integration of McAfee security technology with Intel’s silicon-based processing and computing products.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich surprised many at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) yesterday in Las Vegas when his vision for wearable computing shifted to Intel’s new strategy for embedding more McAfee security technology into computing products for free. The crescendo, the rebranding announcement.

“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.”

McAfee will continue to operate as an autonomous unit as it has since being acquired. However, the Intel security engineering teams will merge with their McAfee counterparts.

Fernando Quintero, McAfee’s vice president of channel sales for the Americas, called the change exciting and logical. “We’re bringing both teams together as a single unit so we can work on security issues together,” he told Channelnomics.

For McAfee partners, not much will change in the short run. Quintero says all channel policies, product pricing and operations will remain the same. Branding guidelines and marketing materials will become available as the transition progresses.

What isn’t changing is the iconic McAfee shield. Intel will continue to use the symbol to represent the security unit, maintaining some brand continuity.

When Intel bought McAfee in February 2011 for $7.8 billion, it had a vision of embedding more security in the silicon level, thwarting more threats before they reached the upper levels of the computing stack. Intel and McAfee had been collaborating on security products prior to the acquisition; the merger gave Intel’s teams more direct access to McAfee’s technology.

By many accounts, the Intel-McAfee marriage has been successful. McAfee continues to perform well in sales and returns, as Intel has taken more of a collaborative approach to product development and operations.

Changing brands solves a few problems for Intel and McAfee. For Intel, it provides another weapon it its fight to regain some momentum lost to ARM processor competitors in the mobile market. No other chipmaker can claim to have the embedded or attached security capabilities as Intel and its McAfee-based technology. For McAfee, it helps shed lingering perceptions that it’s primarily an antivirus software company; while antivirus is important, McAfee has more technology that serves enterprise security management needs.

Another problem the change solves is the thorny issue of brand conflict with the company’s founder, John McAfee. The renegade entrepreneur has elevated his public profile over the last two years since fleeing his home in Belize under suspicion of being connected to the murder of his neighbor. Since then, he’s publicly criticized the quality of his former company’s products, talked about forming a new security company and, in flamboyant style, made himself available to the media for commentary on security trends. While most people know John McAfee is no longer connected to the company, the name association has irked McAfee and Intel executives.

The branding change could create new problems for Intel. In recent months, longtime component partners and customers, most notably Hewlett-Packard, have criticized the increasing level of between them and Intel. Specifically, they say Intel’s entrée into the security market with McAfee is fracturing their collaborative go-to-market relationship.

As Intel looks to leverage McAfee as a competitive differentiator at the silicon level, it may find its legacy customers such as HP, Dell, Lenovo and others that are plying the security market for new opportunities will diversify their chip suppliers as a result of the deeper integration.