Intel's Dallman Touts Whitebook Platform At ISS

Intel unveiled its Rich Creek 2 mobile platform for whitebook builders, stressed the channel opportunities around its new Atom brand of ultra-low voltage processors and launched a new managed services support program for partners during a busy week at the Intel Solutions Summit in Las Vegas.

The Rich Creek 2 motherboard form factor specification is part of Intel's next-generation Centrino mobile platform codenamed Montevina, said Steve Dallman, global channel chief at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant.

"I just want the channel to be really engaged in this business," Dallman said in a media Q&A session following his ISS keynote to partners Tuesday.

"Rich Creek 2 feels like the right direction. We're looking to work with ODMs who've worked with the channel for a long time. So I can go to a Gigabyte and not have to say, you know, 'This is what a distributor is,'" Dallman said.

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Select partners like Seneca Data have already built working laptops on the Rich Creek 2 platform. The Syracuse, N.Y.-based system builder showcased a Rich Creek 2 laptop built on Intel's 2.5Ghz Core 2 Duo processor at ISS.

Steve Maser, vice president of product development and marketing for Seneca, told ChannelWeb ahead of the conference that he thinks the platform will allow system builders to build $800 to $1,000 business notebooks with a three-year-warranty that packs more bang for the buck than those offered by larger players like Dell.

Partners were generally upbeat about Rich Creek 2, though it will initially only be available to select partners and not as a stand-alone product. One system builder who preferred to remain anonymous said the new platform "goes a long way towards clearing up the 'Verified by Intel' confusion from last year."

Intel announced last October that it would discontinue its Verified By Intel channel program for testing and support of barebone notebooks in 2008. Dallman said then that the chip maker would stop verifying most of the components listed under its mobile Common Building Blocks initiative with the Montevina platform, though it would continue to do so for channel partners with chassis and LCD displays.

The anonymous partner said his company had felt "abandoned" on whitebooks, but that the Rich Creek 2 platform showed that Intel was "still serious" about the space.

Dallman said Rich Creek 2's availability could become wider with time: "This is a developing thing at the moment, with four or five guys ready to go to market."

Next: Shirley Turner Bids Adieu

Intel also unveiled a new program it characterized as a way "to help channel partners in North America tap into the fast growing managed services market for SMBs." Essentially a menu of brand-neutral IT services provided by Intel or alliance partners like NaviSite, the new Hosting Service program gives resellers the ability to package and self-brand services like online backup and restore, e-mail archiving and remote system management for their own customers.

Dallman said Intel recognized the value of managed services to the channel, pointing out that the chip maker's channel partners were doing up to half of their business on the service side these days. But that wasn't always the case, he noted.

"For a bunch of years, a lot of suppliers said you need to get services into the channel. But to be honest, it was sort of our cop-out when we really didn't know what the channel should be doing," Dallman said.

The channel chief also stressed the new Atom brand in his keynote, characterizing low-cost computing platforms built on the low-voltage processors as a way for the channel to help "bring the benefits of computing and the Internet to an expanded market to reach the next billion users."

A more poignant moment came at Tuesday's closing Awards Ceremony, when long-time North American channel director Shirley Turner bid farewell to colleagues and partners at her final ISS. Turner is one of four Intel channel executives who recently opted for early retirement packages in an ongoing company-wide effort to trim its headcount.

Turner, famous for belting out songs with lyrics rewritten to reflect channel issues -- "Yesterday, all my sales seemed so far away," for example -- didn't disappoint admiring partners who came to see her sing. She performed four songs, channeling the likes of Janis Joplin and the Beatles, almost breaking down at one point as the emotions of leaving Intel seemed to overwhelm her.

Other departing Intel channel executives include Nick Davison, Intel's director of North American channel sales and Mike Steward, manager of North American channel marketing programs and initiatives. Eric Thompson, formerly a North American channel marketing manager, has assumed the acting role of North American channel chief.

"We will keep the same philosophy and in my opinion, we still have the most experienced channel team in the industry," Dallman said.

"The reason we do the voluntary packages, although in many ways it makes [downsizing] harder, because you don't necessarily get people to leave in the areas you'd like to cut, is because it's better at the employee level. Sometimes you roll the dice and you get a bunch of people [leaving] in one spot, as happened here."