Intel Finds a Side Door Into Mobile Market

With the help of McAfee, Intel might just have all the parts it needs to turn its mobile strategy around.
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Intel's (INTC) - Get Report mobile device vision has always been suspect. As the company's desktop and laptop processors led its operation, its mobile division lagged. But with the help of McAfee (MFE) , it might just have all the parts it needs to turn its mobile strategy around.

>>Why Intel's McAfee Deal Makes Sense

According to Intel in a statement announcing its acquisition of McAfee, it plans to use the security firm's expertise to help bolster the viability of "Internet-connected devices." The chip maker said that it now puts security on the same level as energy efficiency and connectivity.

Without saying it specifically, Intel has made it clear that its acquisition of McAfee is rooted in its desire to be a bigger force in the mobile market. After all, it wasn't a mistake that the company mentioned energy efficiency and connectivity in the same breath as mobile security.

Intel's decision to finally make a significant play in the mobile market is a good one. Since the dawn of next-generation smartphones, led by

Apple's

(AAPL) - Get Report

iPhone, Intel's processors have been practically non-existent in that space. The vast majority of smartphones are running

ARM

(ARMH)

-based chips, while Intel, arguably the world's most important chip maker, has been kept out.

In May, Intel unveiled a new line of

Atom mobile processors, formerly known as "Moorestown"

that are designed for smartphones and tablets. The Intel Atom processors, according to a statement released at the time, "deliver significantly lower power" than the company's older chips. Plus, the company was quick to point out that the processors "bring support for Wi-Fi, 3G, and WiMAX" connectivity options.

Given that Intel believes success in the mobile market requires all three "pillars" -- energy efficiency, connectivity and security -- it only makes sense that it would target a well-respected security firm to help it turn its triple play.

Intel's decision to acquire McAfee becomes all the more compelling when one evaluates the mobile market as a whole. Energy efficiency and connectivity are obvious necessities in the mobile space. But up until the past few years, security meant little. In fact, the vast majority of threats occurred on the desktop.

But as smartphones continue to sell well, mobile-security issues are increasing at a rapid rate.

Kaspersky Labs

, a security firm that competes with McAfee, wrote on its site that "only now, with newer, more accessible platforms and applications are the doors truly swinging open to malicious attacks on mobile devices."

In its annual

CyberThreat Forecast

, Kaspersky said last December that 2010 will mark the year that iPhone and Android-based devices will "arouse the interest of cybercriminals."

It gets better for Intel and its investors.

Last month, McAfee acquired

tenCube

, a firm that develops security software for Android-based devices. Combine that with Android's strong growth over the past year, and it becomes clear that McAfee was positioned quite well to capitalize on security issues in the mobile market prior to the Intel acquisition.

So, perhaps Intel's ailing mobile division is finally ready to take that space by storm. The company can cater to product makers that want power. It can appeal to those that want the ability to get connectivity to several different technologies. And it can now offer a security solution that will help safeguard those products against future malware attacks.

Whether or not those three pillars will help Intel's mobile division turn a sizable profit remains to be seen. But most investors would probably agree that it sounds like a good idea so far.

--Written by Don Reisinger in New York

Don Reisinger has been writing columns and blogs about the technology and video game industries for years. His work appears in some of the tech industry?s biggest publications, as well as in the

Los Angeles Times

, where he blogs about social networking. Follow Reisinger on Twitter @donreisinger.