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4/24/2006
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vPro: Do Businesses Need An Intel-Branded PC Platform?

Can too much of a good thing be more than the customer wants, needs, or even cares about? Intel on Monday unveiled its vPro, a new brand name it will apply to its Professional Business Platform the company introduced only a year ago. Intel now has three platform brands: the highly

Can too much of a good thing be more than the customer wants, needs, or even cares about? Intel on Monday unveiled its vPro, a new brand name it will apply to its Professional Business Platform the company introduced only a year ago. Intel now has three platform brands: the highly successful Centrino brand for mobile PCs, the fledging Viiv brand for consumer PCs and related equipment, and vPro for the commercial PC market.While Paul Otellini, Intel president and chief executive, hailed vPro as providing a "game-changing direction for business PCs" on Monday, vPro is simply a significant extension of the existing business platform with a shorter and catchier name. While consumer markets need branding to capture the imaginations of a fickle public, it's doubtful that having a better name for its business PC platform is going to transform Intel's already dominant position as a provider of processors and related technology to the business PC market to an even loftier status.

The Professional Business Platform as a brand name "wasn't working," says Gregory Bryant, general manager of Intel's digital office platform division. "It was too long, too hard to remember, and when I was out talking to end users, we found it wasn't sticking," he says.

Why it took Intel a year to figure out that its original platform name was clumsy and unimaginative is puzzling. Intel executives were asked immediately after the original platform was introduced last May why they didn't give it the "Centrino" treatment. At the time Intel said a full branding strategy was under consideration.

Maybe there wasn't a fancy brand name introduced with the platform a year ago because Intel knew large enterprises are simply not going to care about the name. They'll be interested in the higher-performing and lower-power processors in the platform, the improved embedded management and virtualization capabilities, and how well the platform integrates with their preferred third-party security and management software.

Bryant says having a specific brand with documented parameters will be particularly attractive to small businesses and medium-sized enterprises that have limited IT staffs, as well as to government and educational markets.

He also says people generally view Intel as a provider of microprocessors and don't fully appreciate the role the company is playing in also supplying chipsets, communications ICs, and other pieces of the total PC platform. That's a message that Intel has been hitting on extremely hard for the past two years.

Rob Enderle, an analyst with The Enderle Group, believes Intel could be overplaying the branding card. While Intel was able to drive acceptance of wireless technology into the mobile market with Centrino, there isn't a similar issue that demands Intel's branding in the business PC market. "The need (for vPro) is not as great as the need for Centrino," he says.

Success undoubtedly will follow vPro. While Intel has seen erosion of its position in the retail consumer PC market to systems powered by Advanced Micro Device's Athlon processor, Intel currently dominates the commercial PC market. Perhaps vPro is intended to ensure that any AMD encroachment remains minimal.

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