PC companies roll out Intel's vPro chips

Business PC customers have a new brand to get used to with the launch of Intel's vPro technology.

Intel's vPro brand appeared on business PCs from all the usual suspects Thursday, as the chip company tries out the latest facet of its platform-marketing strategy.

The vPro PCs come with Intel's Core 2 Duo processor and the Q965 chipset, which adds support for virtualization technology and an updated version of Intel's Active Management Technology. AMT allows IT managers to upload configuration changes to a PC over a network, while virtualization support improves the performance of software used to create separate operating partitions on a PC.

Intel has been on a platform kick for the last several years, trying to shift its image from that of a microprocessor maker to a supplier of the major pieces needed to run a PC. This includes the processor, the chipset connecting the processor to the rest of the system, and networking technology, a combination Intel first hit upon with its Centrino notebook package of chips.

It's not totally clear that IT managers are all that impressed by fancy brands, and there's some confusion about what exactly constitutes a vPro PC in the eyes of potential buyers, said Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates. But if Intel can articulate the specific benefits of a vPro-configured PC--unlike its unsuccessful efforts to push Viiv-branded PCs to consumers--it could help the company fend off an emerging challenge from Advanced Micro Devices in business PCs, Kay said.

PC companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway and others announced support for the brand on Wednesday and Thursday with new business PCs. However, business customers have eased back on their PC buying this year after an extended replacement cycle and ahead of the launch of Windows Vista next year.

Intel is counting on the success of brands like vPro and chips like the Core 2 Duo to lift it out of a year-long funk. Earlier this week it announced plans to cut $2 billion in costs by eliminating a total of 10,500 positions this year and next.

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