Intel Adds Core i3, Pentium Processors To Upgrade Service Program

The Intel Upgrade Service program requires a unique code that is provided to the customer via an upgrade card and is hidden by a scratch-off layer. Customers or solution providers begin the update by downloading the upgrade application installer from an Intel website. Once the application is installed, the user enters the unique code and the processor is automatically updated after the computer reboots.

An Intel spokesperson said the 2011 program is currently available only through select channel partners, and that end-user pricing for the upgrade is set by the reseller or channel partner, unlike the 2010 version of the program, which cost $50 per upgrade.

"This time around there is a little more focus on SMB buyers. So what we wanted to do was give this program a try in that market. The reseller channels that have been targeted tend to themselves have SMB clients," said the Intel spokesperson, who declined to disclose distributor or reseller pricing.

The first phase of the Intel Upgrade Service pilot program launched in 2010 and was limited to the 2.80-GHz Intel G6951 desktop processor. In July, Intel revamped the program for 2011 by extending the upgrade service to include the Core i3-2312M, Core i3-2102 and Pentium G622 processors. The hardware review website AnandTech anticipates 10-23 percent performance gains on processors upgraded through the service, based on specifications Intel reported.

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Tim Ulmen, principal at Midwest IT solutions group, a Wichita, Kan.-based system builder, thinks the upgrade service has benefits. "This option gives the customer the flexibility of purchasing a PC at a lower price and, as their need for CPU power increases, they can upgrade by what amounts to a firmware update," he said. "Provided [the 2011 program] follows the same guidelines as the [2010] pilot program, the opportunity for a new revenue stream for system builders exists."

However, Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder Nor-Tech, thinks the upgrade service is a waste of Intel's resources. "I wonder if the benefits really outweigh the cost to administer the program. I couldn't imagine ever talking to a customer about this sort of feature as a benefit," he said.

According to the Intel spokesperson, reception to the 2010 pilot was "generally positive" and the cost to administer the program is negligible because of the existing complexity of Intel's product line. "[The program] is a way to provide more flexibility and if it continues it would just become one more way for us to manage what has already become a complex system," the spokesperson said.