Rumors that McAfee might be acquired have been on a low boil for some time, but they heated up markedly toward the end of June.
About then, McAfee’s stock hit a ten-year high while Pacific Crest analyst Rob Owens speculated that the computer-security mainstay might be an acquisition target.
These rumors might be nothing more than hot air, but there’s reason to believe a modicum of substance might lurk behind them.
For one thing, McAfee has done a good job of battling back from self-inflicted oblivion. Perennial second fiddle to Symantec in most consumer and enterprise security markets, McAfee fell way off the pace earlier this decade. It has regained its stride, though, especially in SMB and enterprise markets, where the company has bolstered its product portfolio through acquisitions and renewed focus.
Symantec still retains a sizable lead over McAfee and everybody else in security software for the consumer market, but that market is vulnerable to Microsoft Security Essentials, free anti-malware software whose beta run was quickly oversubscribed.
At least some early reviews of Microsoft Security Essentials have been favorable, and Symantec and McAfee are exposed to any market-share incursions Microsoft can make in the consumer space. That is particularly true in emerging markets, where consumers largely have not made a previous commitment to an antivirus vendor.
Getting back to the enterprise market, though, McAfee has done well claw back at Symantec and others. It also has established interesting strategic partnerships, including one with HP.
In addition, McAfee and HP have established alliances or partnerships in secure data-center networking (HP ProCurve), SMB markets, virtualized storage, compliance, and enterprise-wide security solutions.
As HP begins to get serious about taking market share from Cisco in enterprise networking — as well as in enterprise servers, storage networks, and the virtualization of the data center — it could be thinking there’s more than one reason to get closer to McAfee.