Intel Spends $15 Million On Strange Acquisitions: Is This An Arm's Race?

Few things scream "recovery" for an economy like huge investments from public companies that don't exactly have to open up their checkbook in order to make ends meet, so it's great to see Intel proudly announcing three new Intel Capital investments totaling around $15 million. This amount pales in comparison to the $7 billion that Intel pledged to new chip plants last year, but these are certainly interesting in their own right.

Intel has recently shown their ability to deviate from the semiconductor path, putting support behind the rollout of WiMAX as an example. Now, the company has seen three new ventures worth spending on, and none of them are directly related to chips. This sort of buying makes us wonder if Intel isn't trying to follow Google's steps somewhat, as they started out as a search engine but are now involved in too many ventures to count.

The new deals include eldercare website, real estate investment ratings provider SmartZip Analytics and infrastructure services provider Virtustream. In addition to these three investments, Intel Capital also highlighted several recently announced investments. These include educational gaming company Tabula Digita, Carrier Ethernet solutions provider Overture Networks and advertising technology company BlackArrow. Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital and Intel executive vice president, spoke up in order to clarify why Intel was interested in placing bets on these seemingly scattered ventures: "New ideas require an ecosystem to take root and grow to encourage the formation of new businesses and creation of new industries. These three investments, ranging from IT infrastructure to digital health and the consumer Internet, reflect the core emphasis Intel Capital places on cultivating the most promising areas of innovation to foster the development of the technologies of tomorrow."

Details on the deals are below, but again, it's more the concept here that interests us. Intel Capital isn't a new branch, but with the amount of acquisitions going on right now, we can only wonder what other sort of trouble Intel can get itself into (the good kind of trouble, of course!). Google just picked up BumpTop; shouldn't Intel do something similar if they really want that netbook app store to succeed? Oh, the possibilities.

Details on the new investments follow: (San Mateo, Calif.) is an online destination for family caregivers facing myriad challenges of eldercare, a rapidly growing category within digital health. Its offerings include thousands of original articles, helpful tools, advice from more than 50 leading experts, a community of caregivers and a comprehensive directory of eldercare services. With 1 million unique monthly visitors, is a trusted source of eldercare information and community on the Web. will use the new funding to support the company's continued expansion, including further development of the site, its local eldercare services directory and new marketing programs.

SmartZip Analytics (Pleasanton, Calif.) offers independent investment ratings and analysis on over 70 million U.S. residential properties. The company's products are used by homebuyers, investors and real estate professionals to find, compare and assess the best places and best properties to buy. Built using proprietary analytics, SmartZip ratings bring efficiency to the real estate market by helping consumers make better informed, more confident home purchase decisions. Intel Capital's investment will be used to expand availability of SmartZip's home investment ratings and reports nationwide.

Virtustream (Washington, D.C.) is an infrastructure services firm committed to helping clients fully actualize the enterprise cloud by providing strategy, integration and managed services utilizing virtualization technologies, and xStream, the company's secure cloud platform. Virtustream delivers efficient infrastructure solutions backed by guaranteed service levels and a resource-based pricing model. The company offers three pillars of service including professional services, cloud services and managed services. The investment from Intel Capital is earmarked for the continued development of Virtustream's infrastructure and the expansion of the xStream cloud computing platform.

Funding for all six investments comes from the $200 million Intel Capital Invest in America Technology Fund. Announced in February, the fund invests in U.S.-based growth-oriented industries to foster economic recovery and growth, and to anchor the nation's competitiveness on the global stage.

Tags:  Intel, CPU, Investment, Chip