Intel Intros New VPro Platform, Spring Peak Whitebooks

The fourth-generation of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant's vPro-branded hardware adds new system management, security and client virtualization capabilities to platforms designed specifically for commercial desktops and notebooks, and the in-house IT administrators and third-party managed service providers who maintain and manage them, said an Intel executive, introducing the new vPro products via Webcast.

"The integration of intelligent performance along with smart security and cost-saving manageability features in the Intel Core vPro processor family provide IT and SMBs a no-compromise platform. We also are excited about how Intel vPro Technology gives IT the flexibility to look at client virtualization, consumerization and rich cloud applications," said Rick Echevarria, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group and general manager of the company's Business Client Platform Division.

At the heart of the latest vPro platform are the new Core i7 and Core i5 client processors introduced earlier this year that wed Intel's current Nehalem-class microarchitecture with its 32-nanometer process technology formerly code named Westmere. The next-generation multi-core chips feature Intel's Turbo Boost technology, which automatically adjusts individual core frequencies for different types of workloads to better balance performance and energy consumption, as well as hyper-threading and the chip maker's latest virtualization technology.

The Intel Core vPro platform also includes the new Q57 Express chipset, as well as Intel's 82577LM Gigabit Network Connection for notebooks and 82578DM Network Connection for desktop PCs.

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Intel on Thursday named several leading computer manufacturers, software developers and IT service providers that "are rolling out" vPro-based PCs, software products and services. Top OEMs with business PCs based on the new vPro platform include Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Toshiba, while MSP software vendors like Level Platforms, Kaseya and Spiceworks were listed along with heavyweights like Microsoft and Symantec as software developers supporting vPro products.

The vPro product line has focused on enabling out-of-band, remote system management that extends down to the hardware level since Intel first introduced the brand several years ago. But security has also been a focus and with the new vPro platform, the chip giant has partnered with security software vendors like Absolute Software to beef up Intel's anti-theft technology to make possible such security measures as remotely locking down or even wiping data on a stolen laptop.

Meanwhile, Intel also made public one of the biggest new changes in more than a year to its sometimes puzzling whitebook portfolio. Code named Spring Peak, the new Intel "enablement program" adds what could be a better path to market for Intel system integrator partners who have had trouble matching their fruitful custom desktop and server engagements with similar success in the custom notebook business.

On the product side, Spring Peak consists of a 13.3-inch ultra-thin notebook platform, a 15.6-inch standard-equipped notebook platform and an exclusive docking station that can handle both products. The two new notebooks are based on Intel's latest Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors, and both are targeted at small- to mid-sized business customers, according to Bill Davidson, mobile marketing manager at Intel.

But the key to Spring Peak is that it potentially opens up a third way to market for system integrators who have struggled to make earlier whitebook programs profitable for themselves, often due to simple economy-of-scale disadvantages when competing against globally positioned Tier 1 OEMs like HP, Dell and Lenovo.

With Spring Peak, Intel partners can source and assemble product in a variety of ways that make the most economic sense to them, Davidson said. Partners can still source bare-bones building blocks for the 13.3-inch and 15.6-inch notebooks through standard distribution channels and then put everything together themselves. But they'll also be able to get partially assembled parts or even resell and possibly co-brand fully assembled whitebooks from large Intel channel partners like Equus Computer Systems and Seneca Data.

Basic specs for the Spring Peak 15.6-inch notebook include the Mobile Intel HM55 Express chipset, up to 8GB of dual-channel DDR3 memory, integrated Intel graphics with an option for discrete graphics from Nvidia, and optional WiMAX and Bluetooth.

Specs weren't immediately available for the ultra-thin 13.3-inch notebook, though Davidson said it wouldn't have an optical drive -- various options for optical drives in the docking station would compensate for that, he added.