Solution Providers: New Intel VPro Platform Will Boost PC Sales


"This gives a big boost to the desktop PC and gives us a more compelling reason to sell high end desktops at competitive prices," said Samuel Sanchez, vice president of marketing and business development for Coastline Micro, $25 million Irvine, Calif., system builder who attended the VPro launch Monday in San Francisco. He predicts a desktop PC sales increase of 10 percent to 15 percent when the new VPro platform is formally launched in the third quarter as part of the Conroe dual processor desktop.

Sanchez is hoping VPro will have the same kind of impact that Centrino had in the mobile systems market. "They are putting their money where their mouth is," he said. "The VPro campaign is going to mirror the Centrino launch, which was very, very successful." Intel would not break out how much it will spend in marketing the new platform but conceded that it will be less than the broad mass market consumer Centrino campaign.

Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini formally unveiled the long anticipated new business computing platform at a press conference at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. "This really helps us reinvent the business client," said Otellini, touting the security, manageability and energy efficiency features that are being rolled together under the VPro brand. He said VPro seed units will be available this quarter ahead of the massive ramp, which will come in the third quarter when the Conroe desktop dual core processor is shipped in volume.

The VPro launch came on the same day that the chip giant slashed higher end desktop PC processor prices by up to 50 percent in the wake of disappointing quarterly results last week.

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Glen Coffield, president of Cheap Guys Computers, a system builder with six retail stores in the Orlando, Fla., area, said the PC processor price cuts set the stage for a short term increase in PC sales by 10 percent to 15 percent ahead of the Conroe launch in the third quarter. "We are going to be able to advertise higher performing products at new lower pricing," he said. "I think a lot of these sales are going to come at the expense of AMD, which is staying put on pricing. Intel has definitely fired a shot here with pricing. It is very very aggressive. They need to clean up a lot of inventory and they have taken the pricing to do it. These are not minor price cuts. They are huge."

Coffield is also hoping that the new VPro platform will bump sales by another 10 percent to 15 percent, but that could be squelched by economic factors such as rising gas prices, he cautioned. "The bigger factor in play here is energy costs, which are rising and could cause businesses to fold," he said. "Businesses that fold don't need new PCs."

Wes Herschberger, CEO of MapleTronics, a system builder and managed service provider who attended the event, said he is more excited about the managed services opportunity that will spring from the VPro platform than any short term business desktop sales uptick. "It probably will help us sell PCs much faster, but what is neat is now we have the capability of pushing more managed services. That is more exicting to me. Not that we are going to sell 20 percent more boxes. Now what we are going to be selling forward is PCs that will be directly tied into the capability of managing them."

Herschberger said how quickly the new VPro platform will be adopted by small and midsize businesses will depend on how quickly managed service providers and solution providers can educate customers about the improved management capabilities, which he said will dramatically lower the total cost of ownership for even small businesses.

Herschberger said the technology that Intel has brought to bear is not necessarily a breakthrough, but packaging it together and putting it under the VPro brand is "revolutionary."

"They have put a name to a concept that we have been trying to get people to understand for quite some time," he said. "This creates exicitement around that. The education of managed services in small businesses will go forward much faster with VPro."

It is not only system builders that are touting the total cost of ownership benefits that will be brought to the table by VPro. Outsourcing giant EDS said the new platform will dramatically reduce its costs for managing 3.5 million desktop and laptop systems for some 400 clients.

Kim Stevenson, vice president of information technology, outsourcing service delivery for EDS, said the active management technology in VPro, which EDS has been piloting for the past 18 months, will help reduce high cost onsite desktop repair visits by as much as 50 percent to 75 percent. Stevenson said the Intel technology brings remote desktop services to a new level. The productivity gains are striking, she said, noting that VPro shifts the desktop support model away from the old "one to many" support model. "This is about having a more productive workforce," she said, predicting that as many as 97 percent of problems can be fixed remotely with the VPro platform.

Steve Dallman, director of distribution and channel sales and marketing at Intel, said he believes VPro will result in a new desktop refresh cycle later this year. He said VPro ushers in a new era of solutions and service opportunities for solution providers serving small and midsize businesses. "This is going to allow solution providers to bring to small and medium businesses all of the capabilities that large IT departments have been able to provide," he said.