New Centrino less about speed

With the launch of its latest Centrino processor, Intel Corp. is emphasizing what the chip technologies can do, rather than how fast its flagship Core Duo 2 can run on business and consumer notebooks.Intel executives said the Duo and Pro platforms include such features as the 965 Express chipset, Clear Video, wireless LAN with next generation 802.11n WiFi, an optional Turbo Memory, improved manageability and better security.

More than 230 Centrino Duo and Pro designs have been produced for tier-one PC vendors, original design manufacturers and system builders. IBM, Hewlett-Packard and others announced Centrino-based systems at a roll-out here earlier this month.

The main difference between the initial Centrino platform released four years ago and Santa Rosa is the ability of the chips to run multiple applications simultaneously, such as downloading video while performing a virus scan.

“The world is turning mobile increasingly since 2003,” said Don MacDonald, vice-president of marketing for Intel. “We saw that inflection point back then, when the world started looking for laptops with desktop features. It has gone from strength to strength, and when you at look at 2010, around the world it is forecast that 50 per cent of PCs sold will be mobile. That is a huge difference from a few years ago.”

Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, an analyst firm based in Wayland, Mass., said that with the launch of the Santa Rosa platform Intel has improved IT management.

“To me, the most important aspect is how you manage this stuff. From the Pro platform end of things, if you are an IT manager you can talk about the entire fleet now, because in the past only half of it could be managed. If a user’s notebook broke down while on the road, the IT manager let him sit there, unless it was the CEO,” Kay said.

He added that notebooks will join servers as mission-critical equipment, especially with security concerns and compliance requirements. “It will be more important to manage the entire fleet for IT managers in the future. If they don’t, they will have liability, service and expense issues,” Kay said.

The new Centrino lines will also have Active Management Technology (also called vPro) providing wireless PC management, protection and repair work such as wireless remote diagnostics and repair capabilities, while the security features include system defense and hardware-based isolation and recovery.

MacDonald said that with more laptops being sold, the devices shift from being a capital to an operational cost.“If you care about TCO and managing the laptops, companies will need a cheaper way to buy and manage laptops. So we built into the chip hardware technology, with agent presence, system defense, remote remediation and hardware and software tracking,” MacDonald said.

He believes channel partners will embrace these features, especially those with small business customers who are looking for remote help.

However, Kay sees mixed blessings for VARs and system builders. “There is a whole list of good things here, but it is hard to pick one single thing that is a main benefit that the channel can talk about to customers,” Kay said.

He added that this becomes a marketing challenge for the channel.

The OEM partners Kay has spoken to have said the same thing. All have had to make a bet on one of the key new features. For example, HP is not offering Turbo Memory, while Dell is, Kay said.

“This is not the end of the world, and it can be positioned as they are offering more choice with different packages for the buyers. That is the flip side, but on the other hand, it is not clear what the one solution people should be heading to is,” he said.

As for the new CPUs, Intel claims Core Duo 2 and Pro will reduce the time needed to update security on notebooks by 84 per cent. “If the notebook becomes infected, IT can isolate it and be contacted remotely for self correction,” MacDonald added.

Turbo Memory, which is optional, is intended to speed application launch and run times. It uses flash memory in increments of 512MB and 1 GB along with some software drivers.

According to MacDonald, while the chip has two cores, few applications today take advantage of both. If one core is not being used it will go into a sleep state, but in the meantime the other core will have an extra bin that will increase the rate of speed. So in essence it is turbocharged.

“The product is not only faster but smarter. We have the ability to turn off parts of the chip, same as a house that knows when

to turn the lights off if the kids are not in their rooms,” MacDonald said.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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