Three and a half years after Intel acquired McAfee, the chip giant looks set to ditch the famous brand that still bears the name of its fabled founder, John McAfee.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich broke the news almost in passing during a presentation at CES 2014 in Las Vegas, explaining that in future the consumer products would come under a new Intel Security name.
There is some confusion about which consumer and business products will come under the Intel Security wing immediately, but the transition would take up to a year and apply to new products as they arrived, the firm later confirmed.
The distinctive if not always loved red McAfee shield will remain in place for the time being.
The decision is not entirely unexpected despite the fact that it has taken Intel longer than normal after the acquisition to resolve to drop what remains one of the two or three most famous security brands in existence. Intel is banking that attaching its own brand to the word ‘security’ will more than offset any loss in recognition.
McAfee cost Intel $7.68 billion (at the time around £5 billion) in August 2010, still a record price for a pure security firm so it might feel it has the right to impose its own identity.
Despite being founded as long ago 1987, those will longer memories will recall that this is not the first disappearance of the McAfee brand. During the merger-crazy 1990s, it was subsumed for a few years inside Network Associates, a move that was eventually reversed in 2004 during a de-merger.
Not everyone is convinced that the latest brand-killing exercise is a good idea. According to Graham Cluley (once of rival Sophos but now an independent commentator), “it’s a complete and utter mystery why Intel would want to get rid of one of the most famous and familiar names in the world of anti-virus.”
And, as Cluley hints, ridding the public consciousness of the McAfee name might be harder to achieve than Intel thinks with the world-famous antics of its original founder John McAfee plastered all over the Internet.
“I am now everlastingly grateful to Intel for freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet. These are not my words, but the words of millions of irate user… My elation at Intel’s decision is beyond words,” McAfee told the BBC.
It could be that McAfee’s notoriety since his bizarre escape from Belize in 2012 after the death of a neighbour is one of the reasons Intel decided to drop his name in the first place.
“This wasn't hard to predict after some of the John's stunts,” tweeted another security notable, F-Secure chief research officer, Mikko Hypponen.
But his fame – and continued fame – could turn into a constant and niggling reminder of the brand.
McAfee’s point is well made. McAfee anti-virus is world famous but not always world-loved. Nobody blames microprocessors when their PC crashes or runs slower than expected but now they will have a software product with a new name on it - Intel - to point the finger at when things go awry.