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Intel set to brand business PCs

The company plans to slap a catchy new moniker on technology to make business PCs more secure and manageable.

Intel is expected to introduce on Monday a new brand for business-PC technology as the latest plank of its marketing overhaul.

CEO Paul Otellini tipped the company's hand during a conference call earlier this week after Intel announced its latest quarter of disappointing financial results.

Discussing what manufacturing processes the different chips would use, Otellini mentioned Intel's brands: "Centrino and Viiv and the upcoming brand associated with the business desktop we'll talk about on Monday."

An Intel representative declined to comment further on a press conference scheduled for Monday at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. "We have nothing to add beyond what Paul said in the earnings call," said Scott McLaughlin, an Intel spokesman. But sources familiar with the company's plans said Intel plans to unveil that third brand name Monday along with technology that is supposed to make it easier to manage and secure business PCs. To this point, Intel has talked about these capabilities under the code name Averill.

Since the introduction of its Centrino brand for notebook technology in 2003, Intel has channeled its formidable marketing budget into programs that emphasize the technology that Intel brings to PCs and servers beyond the processor. The company calls this move "platformization," and it has been Otellini's largest project during his brief tenure as CEO.

Centrino is more than just a processor. It's a combination of chips: a mobile chipset, a Pentium M processor and a Wi-Fi chip that was branded as a package. Intel chose Viiv as the name for its second platform brand to target home entertainment PCs. To carry a Viiv sticker and receive marketing assistance from Intel, PC vendors must build systems with Intel's dual-core processors as well as several other Intel-specified components.

Something similar is expected for business PCs, although Intel is keeping the actual name under close wraps. A check of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's site on Friday produced nothing new, but did provide a humorous trip down memory lane, past discarded Intel trademarks such as Septium, Eproximator and Megaseries.

IDC analyst Richard Shim said Intel might run into branding wrinkles when some attributes of the business brand become applicable to other PCs. "What happens to (the business brand) a few years down the road when they integrate the components into consumer PCs and notebooks?" Shim said. "Security, manageability, energy efficiency--those aren't things that are just for the desktop."

The business PC brand likely won't be as widespread as Centrino and Viiv, Shim said. "They don't have to sell it to anybody. They just have to sell it to IT managers. I imagine that what they spend on marketing will be a lot less than what they spent on Centrino since that appealed to a much wider audience," Shim said.