Intel has a new management theory for the next generation of business desktops.
The chip maker later this month will announce its latest desktop hardware bundle, which will be available with baked-in management software, for the first time, along with speedier networking and faster graphics. Intel Corp. also will pledge to offer it unaltered for 15 months.
The bundle, dubbed Professional Business Platform, marks the beginning of what will become a series of annual business desktop refreshes that add features designed to better meet the needs of corporations.
The chip maker is attempting to use the business platform, which follows a recipe similar to that of its Centrino bundle for wireless notebooks, to make Intel desktops more attractive to businesses—even as notebooks are becoming more popular—by boosting areas such as PC management.
Intels Active Management Technology, a management engine thats embedded in the companys Intel Pro gigabit Ethernet network adapter and which works with the 945 chip set, melds with popular management consoles such as Computer Associates International Inc.s Unicenter, allowing IT managers to check hardware assets and deliver software patches.
The platform is also designed to help the chip maker boost its share of the bill of materials for a corporate desktop by adding a new chip set and network adapter to the picture.
Intel is wrapping the Professional Business Platform for 2005 around its Pentium 4 600 series processors, which include Intel EM64T 64-bit and SpeedStep power-management capabilities, as well as its forthcoming 945G chip set and its Intel Pro/1000M Gigabit Ethernet adapter.
The platform is also part of its Stable Image Platform Program, which ensures that business PC software images will remain the same for 15 months. The first PCs based on the platform are due later this month, when Intel will release its 945G chip set.
“Think of the Professional Business Platform as the base model, plus a package of Intels latest and best business technology. It takes the best of what weve got and packages it together at a mainstream price point,” said Mike Ferron-Jones, director of Intels Digital Office Platforms Division.
“While some might hold the view that [business] computing is as good as its going to get, there are still plenty of gotchas, including management and the ability to collaborate and find data.”
Thats the reason for Intels heavy emphasis on management for 2005. The companys Active Management Technology can help diagnose hardware problems and apply software patches remotely even if a PC is powered off or its operating system is unavailable. Intel says this will help avoid desk-side visits by IT staff, which cost money and take up time for regular employees and IT staff.
Meanwhile, the Stable Image Platform Program helps guard against changes that could alter a business PC software image, or its specific package of OSes, drivers and applications, for 15 months—Intel figures businesses will take three months for testing and another 12 months to roll out new machines— This stability is intended to reduce complexities and the additional costs associated with rolling out new machines.
“When you buy thousands [of PCs] at a time, you cant afford to have them all coming with different [software] images,” Ferron-Jones said.
But its still unclear whether businesses or the PC makers themselves will respond the same way to Professional Business Platform as they did to Centrino, which Intel has said successfully boosted the use of wireless networking with notebooks.
-In Management”> Building management directly into a PC is a step in the right direction, said one executive at a large PC maker, who wished to remain anonymous. But PC makers, who face intense competition, often deliver the same basic management technology across their desktop lines, and differentiate them with other features such as processor speed and hard-drive size.
Professional Business Platforms, by Intels definition, must include a Pentium 4 630, 640 or 650 processor with hyperthreading—the chips range in speed from 3GHz to 3.4GHz—as well as the 945G chip set, which offers a faster, built-in graphics core.
The platform also will include the Intel Pro/1000PM Gigabit Ethernet adapter. Active Management, which requires the Intel Pro Gigabit Ethernet adapter, is an option on top of those.
It could well be too much for some, at least at first. PC makers instead might opt to spend money on security features, such as trusted platform modules, which can be used to differentiate themselves from competitors, the executive said.
To encourage adopters, Intel has been working to make the Active Management Technology attractive by collaborating with companies including Altiris, BMC Software, Checkpoint Software Technologies, Computer Associates, LANDesk Software, Novell, Symantec, StarSoftCom and Trend Micro.
“Weve been working with all those companies to integrate Active Management into their paradigm. Were providing new hardware capabilities that can be exposed to those consoles,” Ferron-Jones said. “You can get in there and do some diagnosis, all without user intervention … theres a lot to reduce desk-side visits.”
The chip maker still doesnt expect that every Professional Business Platform PC will be fitted with Active Management Technology, Ferron-Jones said.
But Intel will continue to work on its business PC platform. Looking ahead to platforms for 2006 and beyond—where it will focus on boosting communications capabilities as well as on multitasking—the chip maker will add its dual-core chips, he said.
Although Intel has already delivered a dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition chip and will soon follow up with dual-core Pentium D next month, its planning to offer them mainly to consumers and not to include them in the Professional Business Platform until 2006.
But the platform will gain dual-core chips in 2006 as well as additional, as-yet-undisclosed features.
“We will continue the program year to year, going forward,” Ferron-Jones said.