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January 07, 2014

McAfee Brand Goes Bye Bye

One of the biggest brands in software is being put out to pasture as Intel (News - Alert) plans to rename the McAfee line of security tools simply “Intel Security.”

Why is this important? Branding is critical, and when a company is acquired the new owner must decide if the brand is too stay or be subsumed. Too often the ego of the acquiring company causes them to kill off strong, established brands.

The move, announced this week at CES, was long in coming as Intel acquired McAfee (News - Alert) in 2010. And all the while the product’s namesake, John McAfee, was acting wackier and wackier. He was arrested for manufacturing drugs and weapons charges in Belize. At the time McAfee was naked in bed with his 17 year-old girlfriend, and during the ruckus the cops shot McAfee’s dog dead.

Not long later McAfee was accused of murder, and then fled to Guatemala. Through all this, McAfee was far from press shy, giving a series of bizarre interviews.

On the Intel front, ditching the McAfee name could take as long as a year, and will occur as new products arrive rather than renaming the ones already in existence. Interestingly, the change is in name only, as the core product logo will remain intact.

It is hard to say whether the logo much matters. Logos are all about packaged software, and in these days of the cloud, physical packages are pretty passé. In making the announcement, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also pledged to ship free security tools for mobile devices. This is a classic way of seeding the market, allowing you to later up sell fuller-featured versions.

Big Buy

When Intel bought McAfee it paid a pretty premium. The $7.7 billion price for 60 percent higher than the company’s market cap. But one wonders if that premium was proper given the fact that anti-virus software has been largely commoditized, especially as Microsoft (News - Alert) has moved to give away fairly robust anti-malware with each copy of Windows.

While the name is changing, the McAfee organizational structure is not. McAfee remains an Intel wholly-owned subsidiary. In fact, the McAfee Web site is still up, representing a near fully independent company. Under the McAfee name is a small tagline “An Intel Company.” We’ll see how long that takes to change.




Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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