07:26 AM

Intel: The Software Company...

Intel today held a one-day conference in San Francisco focused on its software efforts, which are an increasingly important part of its business.

The importance of software to Intel is highlighted by the fact that it devoted an entire day to this topic, just days away from its massive Intel Developer Forum conference next week.

The growth in Intel's software group is further highlighted by its acquisition of McAfee, a top security software company, almost exactly one year ago for about $7.7 billion.

It could be said that Intel wraps silicon around its software code because there's already a large amount of software code in its chips. And this will rise because of the increased complexity of the digital world.

Dean Takahashi, writing at VentureBeat, reported:

Intel has more than 90 tools for software developers. It works with 20,000 independent software vendors and touches 37,000 apps. The Intel software network has 14 million developers; and in the academic community, Intel works with 27,000 universities that have trained 350,000 students and 5,000 professors.

Panelists at today's event spoke about the demands of enterprises and their need for improved virtualization, communication, and above all -- security. With so many digital devices now used by staff, and consumers, and linked to large data centers, there are huge numbers of potentially vulnerable entry points that could be exploited by criminal organizations.

Hackers have been able to produce extremely sophisticated malware that can bypass conventional software based security systems. Some malware, known as a rootkit, embeds itself so deep within the guts of a computer system that it becomes nearly impossible to detect -- or remove.

That's why embedding security software deep inside its chips makes a lot of sense especially if you can do it so that it is active across an entire IT infrastructure. Intel is the only company that can do that because its chips are used (nearly) everywhere.

The hole in the ubiquity of its chips is in the cell phone and tablet markets where ARM-based chip designs currently dominate. But Intel is working hard to plug that gap with low-power consuming, high performance Atom processors.

However, the ubiquity of Intel's chips also means it has be very careful in designing its software. A flaw could be exploited across an entire ecosystem of IT systems that contain Intel chips.

Software begets more software. You need software to manage all the other software systems: security, millions of connections, communications, etc. It's not a trivial task, which is why Intel will become more and more of a software company -- in addition to being the world's largest chipmaker.