Redmond Doth Protest Too Much, and Wherefore the Intel-McAfee Deal?

Say what you will about Microsoft’s products, but there’s no denying the company’s entertainment value.

Where else, after all, could a Linux fan find reason to laugh, cry, scream and commit various violent acts, all neatly wrapped up in one little package?

That, indeed, is a fair approximation of the emotions that ran through Linux Girl’s mind when she read about Redmond’s latest attempt to ingratiate itself with the FOSS community.

Specifically, “We love open source,” claimed a company executive recently.

Did Linux bloggers get all warm and fuzzy in return? As if.

“Embrace, extend, extinguish,” wrote HermMunster on Slashdot, for example. “Never forget. Microsoft has never helped open source.”

‘The Enemy of Open Source’

Similarly, “Microsoft is the enemy of open source, pure and simple,” agreed MightyMartian.

Then again, “I think that used to be the case, but Microsoft seems to have a more nuanced view now,” suggested Infonaut. “That said, Microsoft has flip-flopped so many times on open source it remains to be seen whether they truly understand that they’ve lost the ideological war over open source (and more importantly, free software).”

All Linux Girl can say is, remember that little job ad earlier this year for a “Linux and Open Office Compete Lead” at Microsoft, with the mission “to win share against Linux and by designing and driving marketing programs, changing perceptions, engaging with Open Source communities and organizations, and drive internal readiness on how to compete with Commercial Linux and participate with Open Source Communities”?

The company doth protest too much, she thinks.

‘McAfee Would Be Doomed to Die’

Not so easy to understand, however — or so entertaining — was the recent news of the Intel-McAfee deal.

Diabolically strategic maneuver? Wildly expensive blunder? Those and every other stance in between have been voiced on the blogs since the news came out.

“I can see one benefit: it means that McAfee would be doomed to die,” wrote Octothorpe on the InformationWeek blog, for example. “Only positive can come of that.”

Still, “Intel should be focusing on how to stay competitive with Nvidia, ARM, Via, Qualcomm, TI, etc.,” asserted Hans. “They need to remain competitive as the desktop PC becomes irrelevant.”

‘They are Betting on Windows’

Along similar lines, “Wow. McAfee on intel processors?” wrote rabbitsnipe on ArsTechnica. “This keeps me ever more securely in the corner of AMD for my processor purchases.”

Perhaps even more apt: “So they are betting on Windows for another decade,” chimed in keath.

And, relatedly, “Intel puts faith in fear mongering” was the headline over at The Inquirer.

It was that connection between Windows and “fear” that piqued Linux Girl’s interest. After all, if Linux dominated the desktop world, would this deal have ever come to pass? Certainly not.

Linux Girl headed down to the blogosphere’s seedy Broken Windows Lounge for more insight.

‘Simply a Good Investment’

“I can’t imagine what Intel wants with a has-been company like McAfee,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl.

“Perhaps they want some anti-rootkit technology?” offered Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza.

Alternatively, “it is simply a good investment,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet opined. “McAfee rakes in around 2 billion a year, which means the 7.7 billion Intel paid will be returned in 4 years and anything after that is gravy.”

‘A Large Retail Presence’

McAfee, “while frankly being a not-very-good AV, does have name recognition and a large retail presence in the big box retail stores like Walmart, so it simply makes good business sense,” hairyfeet added.

“Some have suggested that Intel might try to integrate certain scanning functions into their CPUs, but I’m betting with the serious threat of antitrust hanging over their head, trying a MSFT-style bundle job won’t be in the cards,” he said.

More likely, hairyfeet predicted, “they will simply let McAfee continue as it always has and rake in the profits.”

‘This Cannot Be Good for Free Software’

Whatever the case, the results won’t be pretty for FOSS, blogger Robert Pogson opined.

“Seems to me a dangerous direction,” Pogson began.

“To differentiate itself, Intel may spread anti-malware stuff in its chips and motherboards in the form of DRM/lockdown,” he explained. “This cannot be good for Free Software like GNU /Linux.”

Profiting From Malware

Intel does contribute “a lot to GNU/Linux,” Pogson admitted, “but I cannot see how this can possibly help GNU/Linux. Free Software has a hard time running on non-free hardware.”

The price of the deal underscores the size of the anti-malware industry, Pogson pointed out.

“Intel will want to monetize this investment, and that will come from raising the prices of chips and motherboards, selling the feature of malware-freedom,” he concluded. “Intel has indirectly profited from malware slowing down PCs — prompting people to buy new — but now they will be able to profit directly in the price of goods.”

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