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Symantec boss puzzles over McAfee Intel deal

'Our scenarios didn't even put Intel in top 5 possible buyer category'

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Symantec's head honcho has confidently predicted the security firm will not suffer the same acquisition fate as arch-rival McAfee, which Intel agreed to buy in a surprise $7.68bn blockbuster deal back in August.

The McAfee deal is only the high-water mark in a wave of acquisitions that have swept the information security market over recent months, as IT platform firm such as Intel and HP have piled into the market segment.

However Enrique Salem, chief exec of the security and storage software firm, said Symantec's market capital exceeds $12bn so any deal would be the largest ever IT industry deal, effectively dismissing the possibility that a buy-up might happen.

During a keynote presentation at the Symantec Vision conference in Barcelona this week a senior Intel marketing exec said its relationship with Symantec would continue as before even after the McAfee deal closes.

Simon Holland, tech director EMEA for Intel's theft-protection product line, answered a question on the effect of the McAfee deal by saying it doesn't affect the relationship with Symantec. Holland said: "Symantec is an Intel technology partner and we will continue to collaborate in the corporate and consumer marketplace as well as embedded and channel," Holland explained.

A four-piece live band that played Holland on stage for a short presentation followed by a question-and-answer session cheekily accompanied his entry with an instrumental version of Michael Jackson's Beat It, a barb he seemed to take in good grace.

Questioned later by journalists on the same deal, Salem was far less diplomatic and said the industry and buyers were still "scratching their heads" and trying to come up with a "good explanation" for the McAfee-Intel deal. Intel has said it wants to use the deal to make security, along with energy efficiency and connectivity, one of the three pillars of future computing - but Salem questioned where the value of running more security functions in hardware would accrue.

"You can do some things better in silicon, but silicon is not a complete on its own," Salem argued.

"At the minimum the deal is a distraction for [McAfee's] management and an opportunity for us," he said.

A team in Symantec is on a constant lookout for possible tie-ups in the industry. They were well aware that a possible sale of McAfee was on the cards, but Intel "wasn't even in the top five" of possible buyers. Salem said scenarios had suggested HP, EMC and Oracle were all more likely buyers of McAfee. He suggested that Intel was trying to diversify itself through the deal but pointed out that McAfee's sales would only make up 5 per cent of Intel's revenues post closure.

Salem was even more dismissive about the competition posed by Microsoft's freebie Security Essentials anti-virus scanner to Symantec's important consumer security business. "Microsoft failed with OneCare," he said. "We're focused on security and have the resources to innovate and develop next generation products." ®

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