Intel Corp. Monday announced a new brand for business products it hopes will help it hang on to market share by making it easier for companies to maintain fleets of personal computers.
Intel, which last week posted a sharp drop in quarterly earnings, hopes the new brand, called vPro, will help it regain ground lost to rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., whose chips are increasingly popular with businesses and consumers.
Intel is counting on the effort to become a success similar to Centrino, the name it gave three years ago to a set of components that provide wireless capability for laptops.
"What they're trying to do is establish that a desktop PC going into an enterprise ... will be better if it has Intel components in it than if it has AMD components in it," said Nathan Brookwood, head of semiconductor consultancy Insight64.
Scheduled to launch in the third quarter, vPro follows the introduction earlier this year of the Viiv consumer brand aimed at turning the PC into a hub of living room entertainment.
VPro PCs will have their processors and related hardware configured to make it easier to fix, update remotely and guard against viruses and other security threats. That could lower corporate technical costs by eliminating the need for expensive visits from technical staff.
Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini said nearly 90 percent of corporate technical budgets was spent on maintenance, and 13 percent of computer problems accounted for nearly half of all maintenance expenses.
"It's all about driving costs down and productivity up," Otellini said of vPro.
The heart of vPro is Intel's new Core processors, which are more powerful and use less energy than their predecessors, the Pentium 4. The Core lineup answers a key challenge posed by AMD's chips, which have become popular in business computers because they have typically used less energy than their Intel counterparts.
The chips in vPro machines will also have a technology called "virtualization" that will allow security software to scan for viruses and other threats before they even reach the operating system or user applications.
Intel's chipsets — the cluster of interfaces and secondary chips around the main processor — will also help monitor security as well as enable the remote management features.
"We are taking a very holistic approach to this," Otellini said told Reuters in an interview. "This allows us to take a very broad view of what's needed and engineer it in a comprehensive fashion."
Still, Brookwood said Intel will have a tough time matching the success of Centrino, which is credited with helping give laptops wireless access — a feature they previously lacked.
"With Viiv and vPro, Intel isn't saying that you can do new things but that you can do the same things you've been doing, but do them better or cheaper," Brookwood said.
"Centrino was a home run, but these guys, Viiv and vPro, will be lucky to get on base."