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Intel's new desktop chips focus on manageability

The processors are expected to show up in hardware this summer

May 18, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Intel Corp. today is announcing the annual update of its business desktop PC microprocessors, with this year's version focusing heavily on features for easier management.
Called the Professional Business Platform, Intel will ship the new silicon to PC makers by the end of May, and it should start appearing in new desktops in a few weeks, Intel and analysts said.
One feature in the new group of chips is the Intel Active Management Technology (AMT), which will make it possible for an IT manager to communicate over a network to a microprocessor, even if the end user has turned the PC off or the operating system has crashed, said Gregory Bryant, general manager of Intel's business clients group.
"That way, I know what operating system is running on the machine and I can send out patches right away," he said.
The ability to communicate with a machine that's powered down has been available for a decade through use of the "magic packet," said Steve Kleynhans, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. What is new with Intel's AMT is that the capability to wake up a machine is contained in a piece of hardware and not just in the operating system, where it has resided in the past, he said.
Having the wake-up capability in hardware means that if a machine's operating system has crashed, or even if it has no operating system, a network administrator could contact the AMT and install a new one, Kleynhans said. "You're still going to want to have the OS communicating with the AMT" for many functions, however, he said.
"A lot of the management functionality [of AMT] is not new," so Intel will face a marketing challenge in explaining its value, Kleynhans said.
Another management feature Intel expects to provide late in the year for desktops is Virtualization Technology, which Kleynhans noted will allow IT shops to partition PC hardware for important functions. That means, for instance, that if a user imports a virus in e-mail, a partitioned and vital office application could be virtually walled off from damage, he said.
The virtualization capabilities won't catch on right away, Kleynhans predicted, partly because of licensing issues surrounding the way an application can be used by a company. But AMT will have more immediate impact on IT shops, he said.
The Professional Business Platform is also intended to support the next Windows operating system known as Longhorn, Kleynhans said. Intel's new chip set "should support Longhorn, but it's hard to be unequivocal about that, because we don't have a Longhorn to lookat," he said. Microsoft Corp. officials recently said Longhorn should ship in late 2006.
All major PC vendors are expected to adopt the new Intel chip set, with no impact on computer prices, Kleynhans said. Compared with laptops, desktops still account for 70% of PCs used by businesses. More than 103 million Intel-based machines were sold globally to businesses, schools and governments in 2004, according to Framingham, Mass.-based market research company IDC.
The Professional Business Platform runs on the Intel Pentium 4 processor.

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