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Intel's Whitebook Channel Program Undergoes Big Changes

Chip giant to wind down Verified by Intel components support ahead of next year's Montevina launch

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Intel will discontinue its Verified by Intel (VBI) channel program for testing and support of barebones notebooks in 2008, said Steve Dallman, general manager of the chip giant's Worldwide Reseller Channel Organization. It will continue to support channel partners in the program with systems built on the current Napa and Santa Rosa mobile platforms, but will be phased out with the introduction of the Montevina platform in 2Q 2008.

While the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker would stop verifying most of the components listed under CBB, Intel would continue to do so for channel partners with chassis and LCD displays, he said.

"We're going to the next stage of support and development in this marketplace. [It] will become a little more boutiqueish, but there'll be room for more profit margin, too," Dallman said.

Intel's CBB initiative, introduced in 2005, standardized certain notebook components, such as hard-disk drives, optical disk drives, LCD display panels, battery packs, AC/DC power adapters, keyboards and customizable notebook panels. The VBI program was launched to give whitebook builders access to more Intel-vetted notebook ingredient suppliers who meet CBB quality, customization and interchangeability standards with their peripheral components.

Dallman said VBI had outlived its usefulness and that Intel no longer needs to take the lead position on enforcing CBB standards for whitebook components due to the maturity of the notebook ingredient market and significantly improved manufacturing quality by components suppliers.

Bill Paschick, president of whitebook builder Rain Recording, agreed with Dallman's assessment. "It's not surprising. But it's a little disheartening. I have mixed feelings about it. I really do commend Intel for their attempts to make the notebook space more like the desktop space for system builders," he said.

Rain Recording, a Ringwood, N.J.-based builder of digital audio workstations, notebooks and storage devices, was an early entrant in VBI, as well as its predecessor, Intel's Build to Order (BTO) program for whitebook builders.

"But Intel may have suffered by trying to standardize a platform that doesn't take kindly to standardization," Paschick conjectured. "Maybe they bit off a bigger chunk than they had anticipated. They're very good at servicing their own product, but [with BTO and later VBI] they opened up a Pandora's box of being responsible for other manufacturers' products. Maybe they weren't ready."

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