March 24, 2006 1:55 PM PST

Intel ponders business PC brand

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--First came Centrino for laptops with wireless networking. Next was Viiv for home entertainment computers. Now Intel is considering a third major brand for business PCs.

"We're looking at whether we should do something in that arena," Anand Chandrasekher said in an interview Thursday with CNET News.com reporters at Intel headquarters here.

Although he wouldn't commit to the idea, he directed attention to past Intel patterns that could indicate such a move is likely. Intel "telegraphed" its Centrino and Viiv branding well in advance, describing a set of tasks the platforms are designed to make easy, Chandrasekher said. He then did some telegraphing of his own for business PCs, pointing to "embedded IT" features including manageability, security and virtualization that Intel believes are central to using PCs in business environments.

Launching a business PC brand would be a new, major step in Intel's attempt to position itself as a company that sells not merely processors but instead technology packages called platforms for specific computer uses. Essentially, Intel is claiming ownership of a larger fraction of what goes inside a PC and assuming responsibility for more of what it can do and its ease of use.

Intel's platform technology push and its associated branding efforts gained prominence with a 2005 reorganization under Paul Otellini, then president and now chief executive.

One logical time to introduce the brand would be at the third-quarter launch of a business PC platform code-named Averill, which combines the dual-core "Conroe" desktop processor with the "Broadwater" chipset and 1 gigabit-per-second Ethernet networking.

Averill systems feature Intel's Active Management Technology, which enables remote administration tasks, and Virtualization Technology, which makes it easier for a computer to run multiple operating systems in separate partitions, such as a tamper-proof domain to let administrators service a PC.

Intel's primary concern is making sure its technology works, but brands still play an important role at the Santa Clara, Calif., company. Although many electronics companies are content being obscure component suppliers--who can say what processor is at the heart of a given mobile phone?--Intel is more ambitious. The famous "Intel Inside" campaign gave the chipmaker a direct relationship with customers even though they buy computers from another supplier such as Dell or Toshiba.

The chipmaker has a "brand hierarchy," with Intel being the "master brand" at the top, Chandrasekher said. With the platform push, Intel inserted a middle brand layer, and beneath that are the "ingredient brands" such as Pentium or Core.

Previously, chip brands such as Pentium were higher up the pecking order, but platforms showed up in 2003 when Intel began selling Centrino--a processor and accompanying chipset and wireless networking technology. "With the launch of Centrino, we made that shift consciously," Chandrasekher said.

Intel has said that over time it likely will retire one of its best-known brands, Pentium. Indeed, the latest processors from the company bear an entirely different name--Core Duo and Core Solo.

Most recent Pentium processors use an underlying design called the NetBurst microarchitecture. With a new generation of processor models arriving in the second half of the year, however, Intel is introducing a new microarchitecture--one that sports the Core brand as well.

The use of "Core" signals that processors no longer get the branding limelight. "The idea behind it is that Core is the silicon core to these platform brands. It is the essence of what makes these platforms tick," Chandresekher said.

When it comes to servers, brands are a different matter, he said. Although Intel is working on server platforms, the company doesn't plan server platform brands.

"That is a segment of the market where they are more sophisticated and would dig into the details and not just listen to the brand-oriented message," Chandresekher said.

Although Xeon server processors will begin using the Core microarchitecture when the Woodcrest model arrives in the third quarter, they won't sport the Core brand the way desktop PCs do, Chandrasekher said.

"Xeon is a relatively young brand," he said. "We're investing a lot in terms of building that brand up. Brands take a long time to build."

See more CNET content tagged:
business PC, branding, Intel Centrino, Intel Viiv, brand

2 comments

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Time to dump the Itanium brand?
Ever since The Register (www.theregister.co.uk) started calling it Itanic, it's been getting a bad press. Maybe Intel would like to rename Itanium to evoke something less er tragic?
Posted by hutchike (157 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Intel, Processors & Platforms
We do have to think about the following when it comes to
deciding whether to be pure play processor company or not.

1. Do the company own OS or is it close firend & neighbor's?

2. The Pentium or equivalent of 1997 is going to occupy
approximately less than 1mm X 1mm in 65 nano generation.
So do the company play only football or sponsor entire
Olympics given the real estate?

3. Apple having proven that a mere function or a set of
function so heavily, does it echo something new?
Yes it does...I think Intel is beginning to hear
something at the ground level...

4. Why only dual processors? Why not multi processors?

5. What is wireless proving?

6. IBM-SONY-Toshiba proved something in the Cell processor
for PS3. What is it?

One business model:

a) Stick to processors only. Then compete with ARM and the like.

b) OS is no longer the driver. Apple has proven it.
IT IS THE APPLICATION.

In 65 and 45 nano generation, processor are not even super functions.
They are there to support much stronger applications.

Welcome to super applications. If Intel doesn't morph and if FABs
remain too focused on production, the applications will take over.
The fact is, the applications drive the FAB and not the otherway
round and this is going to be highly dominant factor.

The point is, the re is no time to ponder!
Posted by akvish (19 comments )
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