With McAfee purchase, Intel could become #1 bloatware vendor

The news of Intel’s $7.68 billion acquisition of McAfee was a bit of a surprise to many of us, and the vague justifications both sides offered for the deal largely focused on the proliferation of mobile devices. However, I couldn’t help but think of another implication of this acquisition for the traditional PC market. Buying McAfee instantly makes Intel one of the leading perpetrators of the pay-for-play bloatware model that infects brand-new PCs from nearly all of the major vendors with heaping amounts of unnecessary software—software that often chews up resources, slows one’s system, prompts users to update or purchase a "full version" incessantly, and might be better replaced with freeware alternatives.

This New York Times article from last year tells the sordid tale of the preinstallation pay-for-play model and McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt’s pride in his firm’s leadership position there:

In a bold and somewhat risky bid to raise its stature with consumers, McAfee has tried to win over PC makers with something they all like: lots of cash. In the last year, it spent $55 million, more than any of its rivals, to get McAfee security software preloaded onto new computers. It now counts Dell, Acer, Toshiba, Sony and Lenovo as partners.
"We are shipping on twice as many computers as the year prior," Mr. DeWalt said.

Up to 40 percent of all computers bought by consumers this year will include McAfee’s software, the brokerage firm Jefferies & Company estimates.

The problem of trialware has gotten so bad that retailers who sell PCs, like Office Depot, have begun offering new PC "optimization" services. Office Depot’s service explicitly includes "removal of annoying trialware" and costs $89.99.

One could debate whether a security suite like McAfee’s fits neatly into the "unnecessary" trialware category. (Office Depot’s service, for instance, includes installation of McAfee Internet Security.) But you don’t have to go far to find a PC user who counts the uninstallation of McAfee or Symantec security software as a first step in the setup of brand-new system. The second step? Installation of a lighter freeware alternative like AVG, Avast!, or MS Security Essentials. These options cost the user nothing, and they offer comparable protection from threats with an often perceptible reduction in the performance-sapping system slowdowns for which McAfee and Symantec have built a reputation.

If Intel continues McAfee’s preinstallation pay-to-play strategy, it will be participating in a shady practice that involves paying PC makers to use its products instead of the competition’s. That’s perhaps not the sort of thing Intel would be wise to do, considering that it’s recently been in hot water with regulatory agencies at home and around the globe for similar practices related to chips. If Intel were then to incorporate hardware acceleration of McAfee’s security software into its processors or chipsets, as hinted at in today’s announcement, the legal questions surrounding its practices could become exponentially thornier.

More important than the legal concerns is the impact that trialware has on the user experience and, as a result, on the health of the consumer PC ecosystem—an ecosystem Intel has sought diligently to enhance and protect in various ways over the years. Not for nothing are Apple’s Macs and iPads making inroads among consumers. Problems like bloatware are a big part of the PC’s troubles.

Intel has the option of ceasing McAfee’s pay-for-play strategy once the acquisition becomes final—and Intel has the financial wherewithal to sustain McAfee during any interruption in its business during the transition to competing, you know, solely on the strength of its products. Dropping the preinstallation payment model wouldn’t likely impact the key mobile business that purportedly prompted Intel’s interest in McAfee, anyhow.

Here’s hoping the folks in Santa Clara will see that making this change serves Intel’s best interests by restoring a little health to the PC market. If not, we may well have Intel to thank for more bloatware on our new PCs than perhaps any other single company.

Comments closed
    • ronch
    • 9 years ago

    $7.3B for McAfee? Amazing how much money Intel can just throw around. Maybe they can spare me a couple of million bucks?

    On another note…

    I bought a Lenovo netbook a few months ago and yes, McAfee is pre-installed. While it’s good that you get trialware out of the box so you can get started with work (MS Office) and get protection (McAfee) right away, the more experienced user just does a complete reformat and puts in what he/she likes. And yes, I went with OpenOffice and AVG.

    Hardware, software, bloatware, freeware, shareware, trialware, adware, malware… the list goes on…

    • Samlind
    • 9 years ago

    I can’t believe with so many Charlie D fans on this site (well, except for the Nvidia fanboys) no one bothered to go check out his site. §[< http://www.semiaccurate.com/2010/08/20/why-intel-bought-mcafee/<]§

      • indeego
      • 9 years ago

      /[<"synergistic"<]/ Stopped reading an article with the first phrase! I think that is a recordg{

    • dashbarron
    • 9 years ago

    What’s the chances Intel offering McAfee free to customers, so to say? Could Intel be buying McAfee and use it to offer “free-secruity” software, or hardware based solutions to customers, thus advertising that their products are the safest choice for consumers and business? Sort of a marketing gimick while providing some real-world security.

    • 5150
    • 9 years ago

    The real discussion should be: Is it pronounced McAfee or MacAfee?

      • Meadows
      • 9 years ago

      Meh, coffee –

        • TaBoVilla
        • 9 years ago

        on my native spanish it’s pronounced MA-KA-FI.

      • TO11MTM
      • 9 years ago

      I always go for McCrapee

    • sweatshopking
    • 9 years ago

    I don’t understand how you people can be so “microsoft is teh sux” and “apple is teh sux” and then like MSE so much. please stick to your guns. This is the internet. It has to be one extreme or the other. Microsoft never made ANYTHING EVAR worth using, or their stuff is the bestehz. Please don’t confuse me again.

    also, the obnoxious language i have been using recently is due to an argument with a buddy. He insists this stuff is normal and “cool” i’m not sure i agree, and thought i would take it for a test run. let me know if it’s cool or not.

      • yogibbear
      • 9 years ago

      No it is not normal or cool. I’ve started to associate your name with posts from the kind of person that i want to punch, like Miley Cyrus. You are now in that bucket. Not liking some of your “opinions” floating around on here. Though i guess it’s freedom of speech and all that BS so say what you like it’s not like it’s the internet or something.

    • Hattig
    • 9 years ago

    Seems like a very odd purchase to me. A lot of money for a rather poor product. I wonder what the overall aim is. At current profit levels that over a decade to get pay back for the purchase. I expect the shareholders of McAfee drank a lot of champagne last night.

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      McAfee is teh sex.

      • ronch
      • 9 years ago

      Yeah. I think Intel should have just given the $7.6 billion to AMD to help them pay off their debts and design a next-gen processor. They at least would’ve gained my love.

    • PeterD
    • 9 years ago

    No problem for me.
    I buy AMD.

    • quarantined
    • 9 years ago

    A few weeks ago, I got a notice from McAfee in the mail telling me that my subscription couldn’t be auto-renewed because my credit card information was outdated. I canceled my subscription back in 2005. Where do they get the audacity to dig up my account which hasn’t been active for five years and tell me that they suddenly can’t auto-renew it?

    McAfee’s about as crooked as a barrel of snakes.

    • Goty
    • 9 years ago

    Next thing you know, McAfee will be recommending Intel processors to run, citing “performance concerns”.

    • Skrying
    • 9 years ago

    Neat. Intel just become consumer enemy number 1. It’s not so much that I dislike McAfee that much (but I do dislike them a lot), but rather that Intel clearly wants to make money by pushing faster hardware and justify it via bloated software.

    • TaBoVilla
    • 9 years ago

    I’m sure the real reason behind this acquisition will be known some day, as many of us are still in shock that not only was McAfee worth so much..

    ..but that INTEL, a microprocessor manufacturer has PAID MORE than what it would have cost Intel to hire programmers, consultants, for a couple of years, develop their own AV Complete Suit, do all the marketing, sales and drive a McAfee-Norton-Nod31-AVG-killerPanda coalition to the ground.. heck, with that amount of money they could not only give all licences for free, but PAY a couple million people to use the AV

    7Bs? that’s more than what AMD paid for ATI!! and they OVERPAID ATI! now whats a bigger feat? design and build consumer graphics chips or a half rat @#$^ AV? I bet the DRIVERS team has more work than the entire McAfee facility, which must be composed mainly of marketing and QA people, so what is this purchase about?

      • HisDivineShadow
      • 9 years ago

      They could have paid to make their own antivirus to add to the stack of available options and not penetrated the market in any appreciable way. Or they can spend a little extra cash and get the branding and built-in penetration of one of the leading companies in the field.

      I think they overpaid. I don’t see how this fits in with Intel’s business strategy (unless they are planning to build an OS from Android, Linux, or ChromeOS and want to have security software to build in). However, I do see why they’d buy McAfee versus making their own. It’d take them years to get it up and running smoothly and even when they did, it’d take many years more to have any penetration in the market. And that’s if they gave it away for nothing.

      Symantec is too big to buy for Intel’s change-in-the-couch-cushions and all the rest, excluding Microsoft’s, are too small to really give good return on the investment. I don’t think “hardware-accelerated” AVS is enough of a reason for them to buy in.

      Is it possible that McAfee had something, a patent or an upcoming technology, that Intel either wanted to own or wanted to bury?

        • TaBoVilla
        • 9 years ago

        You mention 2 very important things I’ve fiddled with before as possible reasons: You see, we live in a crazy world. Corporations do this sort of things customers find shocking at first, but they are very well though out, specially business wise behemoths such as Intel.

        The future is a foggy place; you have the x86 stronghold, licensed designed and manufactured by a few, complete desktop and portable computing dominance, big server share. But this dominance is inherently tied to Windows’, Linux and OSX success as x86 OS’s.

        You have ARM on the rise, apparently licensed, designed and manufactured by whoever has ### to ask. An x86 license-less player which is Nvidia; Windows, Apple, Google making and investing in ARM OS’s, probably even designing their own chips (I foresee Google getting their own license), together with semiconductor’s biggest players (samsung,TI, NEC, qualcomm, STmicro, etc).

        One thing is for sure, Intel cannot x86 compete with ARM all the way down, but who says ARM cannot project themselves up? they just need the killer ARM architecture desktop OS ** and I bet a trillion dollars Windows, Apple and Google are already working on it **. The end of Intel’s monopoly, EU and US Trade commissions happy, case closed.

        But Intel won’t go down as easily. This move I think proves that Intel wants to take the OS route AND the manner on which events took place: not the usual “rumors say intel might acquire McA…” or “possible deal between these two, waiting for shareholder confirmation…” etc.. NO! it was: “DEAL!” also lets insight on the possibility that McAfee owns intellectual property or has developed something Intel needed to get their hands on before anyone else and 7 Billion was less than the potential risk of not buying it, look at it that way.

        Only the future will tell.

    • albundy
    • 9 years ago

    i trust *NOTHING* except NOD32. it has saved my @ss countless times. I can say the exact opposite for McCrappy and symantec (Norton and enterprise versions).

    That being said, I feel like intel might embed McCrappy cr@p in their hardware…somewhere.

      • Shining Arcanine
      • 9 years ago

      I run Linux. I do not use an antivirus. I stopped using Windows earlier this year and I have not had a virus in more than 10 years.

        • albundy
        • 9 years ago

        yeah, but I use a really good video card, so I have no choice.

        • Krogoth
        • 9 years ago

        *nix has viruses. The only difference is that *nix by default has a tighter security and user rights than pre-NT 5.x versions of Windows.

        Microsoft finally replicate the same user rights and access policy as a standard *nix installation with Vista and 7.

        Your only worry is yrojans, loggers and zero-day exploits. You can easily avoid the first two by not downloading or clicking links on suspicious material. There isn’t really much you can do about zero-day exploit, expect wait for a fix.

    • loophole
    • 9 years ago

    Was McAfee the company that was working with nVidia on using GPGPU to speed up antivirus scanning?

    I remember reading the articles late last year but now can’t find any that mention which antivirus company it was working with.

      • loophole
      • 9 years ago

      Never mind – it was Kaspersky. Another good conspiracy theory dies 🙂

    • Fighterpilot
    • 9 years ago

    MSE works really well and considering it’s made by MS you would think it has a natural advantage over 3rd party vendors when running on Windows machines.
    My vote is with Duck…..Intel must be buying McAfee in order to destroy it once and for all.
    That would buy a hell of a lot of goodwill.

      • pot
      • 9 years ago

      Agreed, MSE is great. It is the first thing I install on a fresh Win7 installation.

    • Mystic-G
    • 9 years ago

    Preload Eset instead and I’d be a happy camper.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 9 years ago

    The European Union is totally asleep on this one. I can’t wait till they pass a law requiring a bloatware ballot, so you can choose which company you want to get your bloatware from.

    • wiak
    • 9 years ago

    you cant call AVG light weight… 😉

    • Madman
    • 9 years ago

    Ok, I always thought that Intel was like #2 or #3 bloatware producer.

    Intel WiFi drivers, Intel IGP drivers anyone?

    Now that they have brought the McAfee they will dominate the market with 99% of market share.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 9 years ago

    McCaffe like quicktime/safari try to sneak on my computer quite frequently. How do they get their claws in my machine, I have never ever ever had any of their BS on my machine, one that I built. Intell just lost alot of favor with pc enthusiasts, that is unless they turn around and fire that entire companies management and IT devision and start anew with a just the brand hovering over their own work.

    • khands
    • 9 years ago

    I have a feeling this is going to end up costing Intel a hell of a lot more than $7billion

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 9 years ago

      They will spend $13 billion in man hours trying to figure out how to make the pop ups go away on their new McAfee-erated computers.

    • vvas
    • 9 years ago

    Hey, perhaps Intel /[

      • blastdoor
      • 9 years ago

      This is the most plausible explanation I’ve heard yet

    • jdaven
    • 9 years ago

    The Neelycam silence in here is deafening.

    Where art thou O’ lover of all things Intel?

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      I made my opinion clear well before these two articles were up… this was mentioned in the shortbread.

      Summary: what a friggin’ idiotic move.

      Although, Intel isn’t stupid… maybe they have some evil genius plan brewing for world domination.. I don’t get it, though… I guess I’m not evil enough.

    • jdaven
    • 9 years ago

    This is the very reason I build my own computers or buy Apple. Computers from the likes of Dell and HP have come down in price so that the DIY category is not so cost effective anymore. However, with all the bloatware and the hassle of trying to get a clean install Windows disk, I gave up a long time ago.

      • HisDivineShadow
      • 9 years ago

      Getting a clean install disc is as easy as a Technet subscription.

        • Bauxite
        • 9 years ago

        Yep, and slipstreamed versions when the service packs inevitably come out.

      • Shining Arcanine
      • 9 years ago

      If the computers from Dell and HP are so inexpensive that DIY is not cost effective anymore, why would what comes preinstalled be an issue? DIY requires that you install the operating system yourself, so doing that with an OEM PC should be be an issue.

      If you insist on using the Windows disk that OEMs provide, perhaps then it would be an issue, but honestly, you do not have to use their disk to install Windows with the same key and in my experience, the disk is just a phone call away.

      My personal experience is that higher-end computers from OEMs have a premium that justifies DIY computers, but at the low end, I can agree that computers from OEMs are so inexpensive that it is hard to justify DIY computers. At the same time, I think Apple is perhaps the most expensive of your options and DIY is worth it if the alternative is an Apple PC.

      • 5150
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve found that Apple’s come with the worst kind of bloatware, MacOS.

      • WaltC
      • 9 years ago

      I haven’t bought a OEM-branded desktop machine since ~1995 or so. I build all my boxes myself, but I never do it because of cost. I do it because I can cherry pick every component that goes into the machine, and I always use tier 1 products because generally they hold up better, have good warranties, and have far better driver support than is true for lower-tiered components. I pay a little more but I get a lot more in the bargain–and never any bloatware at all….;)

      I never buy the most expensive stuff available, but I always buy tier 1 components, and then for the boxes I keep I upgrade them piecemeal as desired down the line. Over time, even though initially I spend more, this turns out to be a more cost effective approach than buying OEM-brand boxes. I’ve never thought the “disposable computer” crowd was especially sane…;)

    • UberGerbil
    • 9 years ago

    But Intel halting this practice might raise the price of OEM computers, since they’re effectively being subsidized by McAfee right now. Consumers of OEM boxes do end up paying of course (by absurd fees to the likes of Office Depot to remove it, or with their own time removing it themselves, or just through reductions in productivity over the life the computer by leaving it installed), but the up-front cost of the hardware is lower thanks to these bundling deals. In fact several of the OEMs only turn a profit on some of their lines due to these payments.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 9 years ago

      Won’t it simply mean someone else moves in with their own product?

    • YeuEmMaiMai
    • 9 years ago

    have no issues with McAfee and will continue to use it.

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    Intel “participating in a shady practice”?!? C’mon, Scott…. 🙂

    • wira020
    • 9 years ago

    I still cant believe that McAffee is worth $7billion…

    Now that windows comes with MSE and a good firewall, I dont think 3rd party security software is relevant anymore.. for home usage mostly… I tried freeware like Avira, AVG n Avast before… Their full system scan is fast enough, so i dont see the needs of hardware acceleration..

    IMHO, Intel just want to use McAffee as another selling point for their cpu.. like giving out 1 year free subscription by buying their cpu or their SSD.. I do feel that average consumer could fall for that..

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