Intel IoT ambitions hit by Wind River sale

Chip giant Intel is selling its Wind River subsidiary to private investment firm TPG, nine years after buying it to boost its mobile and IoT efforts.

Wind River has a long history in embedded software, which encouraged Intel to drop $884 million on it back in 2009. The stated rationale at the time was to help Intel in its efforts to diversify beyond the PC and server markets and came at a time when Intel still thought it could take on the ARM ecosystem in embedded processors.

“Wind River is a leading software vendor in embedded devices, and is part of Intel’s strategy to grow its processor and software presence outside the traditional PC and server market segments into embedded systems and mobile handheld devices,” said Intel when it completed the acquisition. “Embedded systems and mobile devices include smart phones, mobile Internet devices, other consumer electronics (CE) devices, in-car “info-tainment” systems and other automotive areas, networking equipment, aerospace and defense, energy and thousands of other devices.”

A decade and billions of dollars have produced very little ROI for Intel in the embedded processor market, although it’s still hoping to have a significant piece of the 5G pie via modem subsidiary Infineon, which it acquired a year or so after Wind River. The latter more recently got incorporated into Intel’s broader IoT efforts, but even that clearly didn’t pay off.

“This move is designed to sharpen our focus on growth opportunities that align to Intel’s data-centric strategy,” said Tom Lantzsch, GM of the Internet of Things Group at Intel. “Wind River will remain an important ecosystem partner, and we will continue to collaborate on critical software-defined infrastructure opportunities to advance an autonomous future. We expect this transition will be seamless for our mutual customers and partners.”

“This acquisition will establish Wind River as a leading independent software provider uniquely positioned to advance digital transformation within critical infrastructure segments with our comprehensive edge to cloud portfolio,” said Jim Douglas, Wind River President. “At the same time, TPG will provide Wind River with the flexibility and financial resources to fuel our many growth opportunities as a standalone software company that enables the deployment of safe, secure, and reliable intelligent systems.”

“Our technology team is focused on backing strong, market-leading companies in growing industries,” said Nehal Raj, Partner and Head of Technology investing at TPG. “We see a tremendous market opportunity in industrial software driven by the convergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), intelligent devices and edge computing. As a market leader with a strong product portfolio, Wind River is well positioned to benefit from these trends.”

This seems to be yet another example of how difficult it is for tech giants to diversify through acquisition. So much M&A by companies like Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, Ericsson and many more has ended up being reversed or just plain written off a few years later, at significant cost to shareholders. One day, maybe, shareholders will start rewarding companies for organic diversification strategies that take a while to play out.