Intel is rolling out its newest business PC processors, the Core vPro, that combine the chip maker's "Sandy Bridge" architecture with the latest generation of its on-board management and security capabilities.
Intel unveiled the 2nd Generation Core vPro i5 and i7 processors March 17, with Rick Echevarria, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group and general manager of Intel's Business Client Platform Division, saying the capabilities in vPro 2.0 will enable PCs with the processors to act in a hub role, providing the link for such devices as smartphones and tablets.
That strategy comes as sales of smartphones and tablets skyrocket, and increasingly are becoming tools used in the enterprise. In addition, some research firms, like Gartner, are predicting that tablet sales will cut into the PC business. However, others, including Canalsys, are grouping tablets with PCs when considering its computer numbers.
Having such capabilities is increasingly important in a rapidly changing IT field, which is having to deal with such trends as cloud computing and virtualization, greater mobility and the ongoing consumerization of corporate IT, Echevarria said during a Webcast.
"The line between personal and professional [computing] is blurring," he said.
Intel officials said Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Fujitsu are among the PC makers expected to introduce systems powered by the new Core vPro chips.
During stops in several regions in North America last month, Intel officials gave journalists and analysts a look at some of the key new features in vPro 2.0, including Intel Anti-Theft Technology 3.0. With the previous version, IT administrators could send a coded "poison pill" to a stolen or lost laptop via a WiFi network to prevent access to encrypted data. With the newest version, that code can be sent over a 3G network to a laptop moments after it's turned on. Another message can reactivate the PC once it's found.
There also is the Locator Beacon capability, which enables IT pros and authorities to find a missing laptop using GPS technology on certain 3G modems. In addition, another feature helps protect data on PCs that go missing while in the standby state, so that when the system is awakened, it can require an encryption login.
On the management side, the new Host-Based Configuration capability automates the process of setting up vPro functions on new computers, with thousands of systems being able to be configured within minutes. In addition, the Keyboard-Video-Mouse Remote Control lets remote technicians see a worker's screen presentation in higher resolutions.
Intel also is enhancing Turbo Boost, which can increase processor speed based on demand, temperature and power consumption.
The vPro technology not only will be on business- and consumer-level PCs, but Intel will be putting it into the upcoming Xeon E3-1200 family to bring the capabilities to entry-level workstations.
Intel officials touted the performance improvements with the new vPro 2.0 features. Comparing a new Core vPro i5 with a 3-year-old Core 2 Duo, the newer chip offers speed improvements of 60 percent for business applications, 100 percent in multitasking and 300 percent for data encryption.
"This kind performance equates to enormous promise for the PC, for example, as the 'hub' for the varied combination of tablets, smart phones, netbooks and operating systems filling our pockets and briefcases," Echevarria said in a statement. "The new Core vPro processor family has the capacity to offload tasks or even better share them to get the most from companion devices. With such performance, the PC could be a service provider, coordinating encryption, virus scanning, near transparent syncs and remote control."
During the Webcast, he also talked about the close working relationship Intel has with Microsoft, and noted the importance of the vPro features for businesses migrating to Windows 7. Windows 7, which supports the vPro features, represents a strong business for Intel going forward. Echevarria said that while 90 percent of businesses surveyed said they expect to migrate to Windows 7, only 20 percent of PCs in the United States and Europe have been migrated to the operating system.
"For many global enterprises, the migration of Windows 7 is still a work in progress," he said.