Over time, companies might use virtualization to allow PCs to run different software images, keeping corporate software separate from other software on the machine, for example, to lessen the chance of it becoming corrupted.
"Virtualization—thats certainly something we believe, over time, will be an interesting technology for corporate," Zagorski said. However, "We do think theres going to be some amount of time required to enable the ecosystem."
Although most of the platform capabilities can be built into any desktop, regardless of its size, a development coming in the latter half of next year will bolster small desktops. Intel plans to roll out Conroe, a new dual-core processor designed to use less energy than todays Pentium D and Pentium 4 chips, during the latter part of 2006. Conroe, which Intel said would have a maximum power consumption of 65 watts—half as much as some Pentium 4s—would fit easily into smaller desktops, analysts and PC makers say, but still give them a performance bump.
"Itll run quieter, the acoustics are going to be even better, and itll help toward more small form factors," Bhatia said.
Small businesses and consumers are generally still leaning toward larger desktops, with the exception of machines such as Apple Computer Inc.s Mac Mini. But even those market segments could be in for a change.
Intel also has a platform effort under way for consumer desktops. It launched the VIIV brand, pronounced like vive, and a hardware platform to go with it during its fall Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco in late August.
At that time, Intel showed a small PC reference design, called Golden Gate, which isnt much larger than an external PC DVD drive.
Intel is shopping the Golden Gate design, whose concept is similar to the Mac Mini in many ways, around to PC makers, who could use it to build low-cost, small-footprint consumer PCs. But "Itll be awhile before we get to that size" for businesses, however, Bhatia said.
Where Golden Gate uses Yonah, a forthcoming notebook chip from Intel, corporate PCs, for cost reasons, will continue to use standard desktop parts, including 5.25-inch optical drives and 3.5-inch hard drives, since they can be bought without a paying a premium, Bhatia said. Thus theyre likely to continue sporting so-called six liter and nine-liter designs—the description refers to their internal volume—but those desktops are much smaller than traditional towers. Dell offers six- and 10-liter small desktops, versus its tower-based machines, which range up to 32 liters.
"The direction [Intels platforms] are heading with increased efficiency on power and not only to support our smaller form factors but also cost of ownership for our customers—to use less power and less heat—will also minimize any [support] issues as well," Zagorski said.
The shift may take some time, however.
"Theres still a lot of consumers and a lot of small business who like their towers, so itll be an evolution," Bhatia said.