Intel has unveiled its second-generation Core vPro platform for businesses, promising the usual enhancements in performance, security and manageability, but with a new focus on keeping the PC relevant in the age of mobile devices and cloud computing.
The updated Core vPro processor family brings the performance of Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture to business desktops and laptops, with new systems based on Core i5 and Core i7 chips promised from Dell, HP, Fujitsu and Lenovo within a few weeks.
In performance terms, a new Core i5 chip is able to outpace a three-year old Core 2 Duo by 60 per cent on applications processing, 100 per cent on multi-tasking, and 300 per cent on encryption, according to Intel's claims.
New features include Anti-Theft Technology 3.0, which now allows a laptop to be disabled by sending a 'kill pill' via SMS or the internet, and which also includes standby protection to prevent a thief bypassing log-in security if a laptop is stolen while in standby mode.
Identity Protection Technology can generate six-digit numerical passwords, providing built-in support for two-factor authentication and removing the need for users to carry tokens.
For IT departments, the new platform introduces Host-Based Configuration, which automates configuration of vPro features, allowing thousands of PCs to be configured simultaneously from the management console or by generating an XML file that can be distributed by email. This feature is being back-ported to the 2010 Core vPro platform, Intel said.
The KVM Remote Control feature also now supports high-definition screen resolutions, and Intel said that vPro includes the ability to remotely unlock encrypted laptop hard drives, a vital feature when IT staff have to deliver help and assistance to mobile workers on the road.
However, perhaps the most interesting part of the announcement was Intel's determination to keep the PC platform positioned as the chief business client in a world where tablets and smartphones are increasingly grabbing the headlines.
Rick Echevarria, head of Intel's Business Client Platform Division, talked about vPro PCs serving as a hub for companion devices such as tablets.
"We've enhanced the ability of IT to secure and manage the PC, so what if we take this trusted device and extend its capabilities to tablets and smartphones coming in to the enterprise, giving a helping hand to management?" he said, adding that further details on this concept would be shared in the near future.
Intel also pushed Core vPro's credentials as the best client system for cloud services and desktop virtualisation.
"In cloud computing, there's a growing trend towards client-aware cloud services that can capitalise on the capabilities of the endpoint device," Echevarria said.
In desktop virtualisation, vPro also delivers a better end-user experience through the Sandy Bridge architecture's integration of on-chip processor graphics to accelerate remote desktop handling, Intel said.
"Local performance matters," Echevarria said, claiming that laptops are better than thin clients for the task.
"Intelligent clients offer a more balanced approach to virtualisation," he said, adding that Intel is working on ways to make infrastructure smart enough to recognise endpoint capabilities.
This could have a pay-off with back-end systems able to support 25 to 40 per cent more virtual clients than would otherwise be the case, he said.
Intel said it will offer more detail on its Intelligent Client strategy in the near future.
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