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What is Intel vPro exactly?

Intel's newest version of vPro proposes to do many things that a lot of consumers know little about.

Does Intel vPro ring any bells? Not for most people. The newest version of vPro software and accompanying Intel hardware introduced Monday won't command the attention paid to an Intel processor rollout.

Understandable because vPro is an under-the-hood, non-performance-driven technology that falls off many PC users' radar screens. In essence, vPro allows PCs to be fixed and maintained remotely, potentially saving businesses money because they don't incur the cost of IT staffing levels necessary if maintenance was done at each PC on site.

For example, a feature called Remote Alert will "call" IT on its own if the PC is experiencing problems "outside preset parameters," Intel said.

And for small businesses which may need immediate help with PC problems, Intel introduced Remote PC Assist Technology that connects businesses with service providers. After the business user enters a key sequence, the service providers can use vPro to solve problems.

Intel says this is also good for the service provider, allowing broader access to customers. Initially, Intel Remote PC Assist will be available in North America.

One of vPro's marquee features is the ability to access a computer even if it has been turned off. This can be done on either a wired or a secure wireless network. And laptops outside the company firewall can be accessed with the newest versions of software and hardware, according to Intel.

Intel, of course, is a chipmaker and so there is plenty of silicon that goes along with the package. The third-generation vPro suite (formerly code-named McCreary) uses Core 2 quad-core or dual-core processors in combination with Q45 Express Chipset, the 82567LM Gigabit Network Connection, and Intel Active Management technology 5.0. Mobile chipsets, such as the GM, PM, and GS Express chipsets also support vPro.

Intel also introduced two motherboards Monday supporting all of the new Intel vPro features. Aimed at channel customers, the DQ45CB is for standard-sized PCs and the DQ45EK is for small-form-factor systems.