Intel Unveils New PC Platform

The chipmaker introduces vPro, a technology to improve the management and security of PCs.
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In its effort to stave off threats in the corporate desktop PC market,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

rolled out the third leg in its platform approach to computing Monday

Dubbed vPro, the new platform combines Intel's forthcoming dual-core desktop microprocessor with advanced networking capabilities and management software.

The systems will feature a special logo and are expected to be available in the second half of 2006 from PC makers including

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

,

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

and

Lenovo

, among others.

"We think by having a platform that has these new capabilities in the hardware and working with our partners, we can make things dramatically better for not only the IT manager but also for small-business owners," said Gregory Bryant, the general manager of Intel's digital-office platform division.

Intel, the world's No.1 chipmaker, has struggled in the face of fierce competition with rival

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

and what appears to be a slowing PC market overall.

Last week, the company projected that its 2006 revenue would be down about 3% from 2005, compared with its initial projections that sales would rise 6% to 9% this year.

While Intel remains the dominant supplier of PC microprocessors, it has lost market share to AMD in recent months.

Long an also-ran in the microprocessor industry, AMD's dual-core Opteron server processor has won fans in the corporate world thanks to its performance and power efficiency.

AMD has declared 2006 to be the year that the company will expand its corporate foothold from servers to take share in desktop and notebook PCs.

Intel's Bryant said the vPro platform was not a reactionary move against the competition. "We started planning this product a long time ago," said Bryant, describing the vPro as "by far the best professional desktop platform, period."

Under CEO Paul Otellini, Intel has reorganized its internal organization and marketing efforts, focusing on holistic platforms rather than on individual processors.

Centrino, Intel's first platform, is designed for laptop PCs and integrates a processor with a wireless networking chip and other important components known as a chipset.

In January, Intel rolled out Viiv, a platform aimed at transforming PCs into the hub of a living room's digital entertainment center.

With vPro, Intel is trying to appeal to budget-strapped corporate information technology managers looking for a way to simplify managing all the PCs used by employees.

Special software integrated into the vPro chipset will reduce PC support costs, according to Intel, by allowing a manager to diagnose and repair PCs even when they are switched off, or when the machine's operating system or hard drive has crashed.

Virtualization technology, which will be integrated into the microprocessor, means an individual PC can run different operating systems or create different computing environments.

"It's a very smart move from Intel's part," says Sam Bhavnani, director of research at Current Analysis. "Intel feels if it's able to replicate the success it had with the Centrino brand, that it will be able to maintain a lead over AMD."

The new vPro platform only involves desktop PCs, which are not growing nearly as fast as mobile PCs. Still, Intel's Bryant said that roughly 70% of Intel's business-client sales are desktop processors.

He said that some of the vPro management capabilities will be incorporated into Intel's next-generation mobile platform in 2007.

In a separate announcement on Monday, security company

Symantec

(SYMC) - Get Report

said it has inked a deal with Intel to design a security application for vPro.

Shares of Intel closed the regular session off 15 cents at $18.91; Symantec shares rose 19 cents to close at $16.34.

Shares of Intel were off 11 cents at $18.95 in midday trading.