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New Intel CEO Paul Otellini has flashed a level of marketing savvy unseen with his predecessor by making the unusual suggestion that consumers buy Apple's Mac computers if they wish to avoid immediate security risks.

Confused? You're not alone. Otellini had attendees of a Wall Street Journal technology conference in Carlsbad, California scratching their silicon this week, as they puzzled through his pro-Mac statements. The paper recounts the episode as follows;

Pressed about security by (a reporter), Mr Otellini had a startling confession: He spends an hour a weekend removing spyware from his daughter's computer. And when further pressed about whether a mainstream computer user in search of immediate safety from security woes ought to buy Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh instead of a Wintel PC, he said, "If you want to fix it tomorrow, maybe you should buy something else."

Apple advocates will, of course, declare that Otellini is speaking the gospel. Others will claim Otellini's statement is really a public flirtation for Apple Chief Steve "Bono" Jobs, who has been rumored to want a line of Intel-based PCs.

We suspect the truth is a little more prosaic.

Isn't Otellini, who this month took over the CEO post from Craig Barrett, simply laying the groundwork for a long, merciless marketing campaign?

Your current computers are insecure. They're frightening. They're disasters. They are a risk to your business and your home. It's upgrade or die time, friends.

Or so the less subtle message goes.

Intel today, in fact, released a new desktop platform, which includes improved security tools for business customers such as being able to audit PCs and contain viruses. What a coincidence.

Intel has been trying to push this "platform" idea on customers now that it's unable to rely solely on improved GHz as the main sales point of new product. Changes in chip manufacturing mean that processors will arrive at close to the same speeds as their predecessors but with more tools for churning through different types of software better and for even more advanced functions such as running multiple operating systems on the same chip. A big chunk of the platform idea is better security for Intel. And it will roll out lots of jazzy things for keeping code under control.

In a larger context, Otellini is clearly waving the flag now for this future product, saying the PCs you have really must be replaced if you want to operate a secure business. It's nice that Microsoft and Intel can benefit from the insecure world they've nurtured for so long.

Until Intel's goodies arrive, Apple may sell a couple more Macs because of Otellini's advertisement. But even Apple's best quarter is hardly noticed at Intel. Otellini clearly knows what he's doing. ®

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