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Intel: Bundles, Not Brands

The chipmaker debuts dual-core desktop products, but unlike Centrino, without a snazzy name.

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

introduced and touted its dual-core products for home and office desktop computers Thursday, replete with accompanying boxes from

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

Lenovo

.

But absent, a la Centrino, was a unifying brand message tying the technologies together.

The world's largest chipmaker underwent a reorganization at the year's start in order to replicate the success Centrino has had in the mobile computing space in its other product lines, such as chips used in servers or those used in desktops.

With Centrino's launch in 2003, Intel was able to bundle a microprocessor, chipset and wireless networking technology together, along with a $300 million marketing campaign, to create a singular brand image that helped spark the demand for notebook computers that can access the Internet from anywhere.

Intel is now looking at creating similar bundles of technology for other product lines, which it calls platforms. The process appears to be ongoing, evidenced by Intel's dual-core products debut Thursday that had no cohesive brand image.

The branding issue has grown more important, as chipmakers such Intel and

AMD

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have shifted away from using the speed of the chip as an indicator of better performance. Now, with the advent of dual-core processors and the reliance on other technologies, such as chipsets, the benefits aren't so easy to encapsulate.

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"There's been no difference in the past between a data sheet and a marketing sheet," says Van Baker, research director with Gartner/G2, the strategic planning arm of Gartner. "It now has to be about a value proposition."

Intel seems halfway through that transition, says Baker, citing the company's increasing discussions about what advantages these bundles provide to the end user. The bundles, as they are now, are simply "a list of technologies."

Intel says that it is proceeding along its planned path and that the first step is getting the technology into the marketplace.

"Centrino certainly was very successful, and we'll be looking at doing something similar, but we're just announcing this today," says Gerald Holzhammer, vice president of the digital home group at Intel.

Specifically, for home PCs, Intel announced availability of its dual-core Pentium D processor and its 945 chipset that supports surround-sound audio, high-definition video and enhanced graphics. For business PCs, Intel introduced a high-performance platform featuring the dual-core Pentium D and the 955x chipset that supports remote management capabilities and a specialized storage technology.

Also, Intel's new so-called professional business platform employs a single-core Pentium 4 using hyper-threading, a 945G chipset and an option for a network adapter.

Maybe the wait for a "Centrino-esque" image won't be too long. In early April,

then-CEO Craig Barrett told investors to expect a "major new branding campaign toward the end of this year." The campaign will be launched by Eric Kim, vice president and director of marketing, who joined Intel from

Samsung

in November.

This campaign will precede the main thrust of the dual-core charge, which is expected to accelerate in 2006. For now, Intel executives say they want people to understand how its technologies working together can improve the computing experience.

"If we can connect these things with what people care about, the

return on investment will be there," says Gregory Bryant, general manager of Intel's digital office platform.

Just because there's no Centrino-like ad package attached to the new chips doesn't mean that PC-makers aren't trying to push the products into consumer hands. Dell priced a new line of its Dimension PCs under $1,000 with a rebate. The base model Dimension 9100 runs on the single-core Pentium 4 home bundle that Intel also announced Thursday and retails for $1,299, or $974 with a rebate. That model with dual-core Pentium D will run an additional $75 with the rebate.

Ketan Pandya, marketing manager for Dell's Dimension line, says the price alone will help the products take hold in the mainstream. Still, he says Dell doesn't want to confuse customers.

"For the general computer buyer, we're not trying to inundate them with technology statements," says Pandya. "We're talking about how they use the PC and ways to get the most out of their PC."