Beefier Desktops Lure Buyers

Analysis: More RAM and less upkeep are key considerations.

Laptops are now ubiquitous in the enterprise, but desktops arent going anywhere any time soon. As IT managers start to think about their hardware purchases for next year, desktop systems wont be banished from cubicles, several Corporate Partners told eWEEK Labs.

The IT pros we spoke with said theyre looking for desktop systems packing as much RAM as they can afford. They also want features that will enable their organizations to lower support and management costs and keep upgrade pain to a minimum.

That might seem like a tall order, but Intel Corp. has introduced programs that might help them meet these goals. Although the Corporate Partners said they thought Intels Professional Business Platform, announced in May, is mainly a marketing strategy, they nonetheless welcomed the technologies packed into the platform, including multicore chips, management features and communications capabilities.

Intels first Professional Business Platform desktops include the companys 600 series of Pentium 4 processors and 945G chip sets. The systems are also equipped with Intels AMT (Active Management Technology), which allows IT managers to remotely send software updates or patches to desktops connected to a network, even if the power is off.

eWEEK Labs took a look at a white-box system equipped with Intels Professional Business Platform and found the desktops AMT offered compelling management features. We were also impressed with the desktops power-saving capabilities. Our system was equipped with a 3.8GHz single-core Pentium 4 670 processor and the 945G Express chip set.

At the Intel Developer Forum earlier this month, Intel announced that the Professional Business Platform next year will incorporate dual-core Pentium D 900- series processors. The platform will gain more advanced AMT capabilities and will support Intels virtualization technology.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about the use of dual-core processors in laptop PCs.

Intels first dual-core processors are slated to arrive in the second half of next year. At that time, the company will make the chips part of its SIPP (Stable Image Platform Program), which will allow IT managers to keep their existing software images.

Under SIPP, Intel guarantees that IT departments that buy PCs based on a platform such as the Business Professional Platform or a combination of components will not have to update their software images for at least 12 months if theres a hardware change to that platform. Intel also ensures that it will continue to ship components for at least 12 months.

Standardizing on a PC platform can help organizations lower IT management and support costs, particularly at sites that have traditionally deployed multiple desktop configurations.

"For IT managers with tens of thousands of desktops, such a capability would be huge," said Kevin Baradet, chief technology officer at Cornell Universitys S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management, in Ithaca, N.Y., and an eWEEK Corporate Partner. "If you have one platform on the hardware level, it will be so much easier to load a machine or remotely patch it."

Baradet said the Johnson School has been purchasing desktops at a $1,100 price point. This buys a 3GHz Pentium 4 system with 1GB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive. The school tries to keep desktops in rotation for at least three or four years, Baradet said, so he tries to purchase as much memory as possible, thus avoiding the need for system updates later on.

Vista isnt an issue—yet

As they make this years desktop purchases, one thing thats not foremost on the minds of the IT managers we spoke with is Microsoft Corp.s forthcoming Windows Vista operating system. Although industry observers have made a huge fuss about the operating system, due in December 2006, Baradet and others said theyre not taking Vista into consideration when it comes to this years purchases.

"I think Vista is starting to raise some eyebrows because its something new thats coming out, but people arent making purchases in preparation for it," said eWEEK Corporate Partner Randy Dugger, president of Dugger & Associates LLC, in San Jose, Calif.

"People are still apprehensive about spending," Dugger added.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about system requirements for running Windows Vista.

Kevin Wilson, product-line manager of desktop hardware at Duke Energy Corp., in Charlotte, N.C., said he is confident he will be ready for Vista by the time his enterprise is ready to roll it out.

"On a three-year lease cycle, we feel that with standard and mainstream systems, we will be hardware-ready for Vista when we deploy in late 2007 or early 2008," said Wilson, who is also an eWEEK Corporate Partner.

Duke Energys device deployment is roughly 70 percent desktops and 30 percent laptops, and Wilson said it will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Duke Energy purchases components that are mainstream and readily available, Wilson said, and he doesnt envision any big shake-ups in the world of desktops any time soon, although IT managers at Duke have been planning for the eventual integration of 64-bit computing since last year.

"Now, with Intel providing 64-bit for virtually no extra cost in mainstream processors, and with Microsoft rearchitecting the Windows Vista installation processes to componentize both 32-bit and 64-bit into a single image, there are no [major] issues," Wilson said.

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at

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