Intel's acquisition of McAfee cleared its final major obstacle Wednesday when the European Commission approved the $7.68 billion merger, but the chipmaker had to promise not to engage in any funny business with regard to how its chips work with competing security products.
To obtain the EC's nod, Intel pledged to allow rival security vendors to utilize the functionality of Intel's CPUs and chipsets in the same way that McAfee will use them, and the chipmaker promised not to prevent competing security products from running on Intel CPUs or chipsets. Intel also pledged not to hinder the operation of McAfee products on non-Intel chips.
"At the highest level we agreed to provide instruction set, interoperability and optimization information to endpoint security software vendors so they can utilize functionality in Intel mainstream microprocessors," Intel spokesperson Chuck Malloy said in an e-mail.
Oversight of these agreements, which apply for a five-year period, will be handled by an EC-appointed monitor, who will also "provide instruction sets, interoperability specs and other interfaces to endpoint security software vendors under an approved form of non-disclosure agreement," Malloy said.
The EC has traditionally cast an intensely appraising eye toward U.S. tech mergers -- particularly ones involving Intel, one of its favorite targets -- and it had concerns about what it called the "technically complex issues" behind the Intel-McAfee deal. The EC was reportedly considering launching an antitrust investigation of the Intel-McAfee deal motivated in part by concerns that Intel might bundle its chips with McAfee security products.
However, the EC now says it's satisfied with the "good cooperation of Intel" during the regulatory approval process.
"The commitments submitted by Intel strike the right balance, as they allow preserving both competition and the beneficial effects of the merger," said Joaquin Almunia, the EC's vice president of competition policy, in a statement. "These changes will ensure that vigorous competition is maintained and that consumers get the best result in terms of price, choice and quality of the IT security products."
The Intel-McAfee merger was approved by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Dec. 21. EC approval paves the way for McAfee to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel, under Intel's software and services group.