Platform power

Chip giant Intel was talking up the power of the platform at its recent Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) summit for some 600-plus executives from its Intel Premier Provider (IPP) community.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  May 3, 2005

Chip giant Intel was talking up the power of the platform at its recent Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) summit for some 600-plus executives from its Intel Premier Provider (IPP) community.

An action-packed schedule included presentations, roundtables and a visit to Intel’s manufacturing operation in Ireland. There was also a special gala dinner at the famous Guinness factory in Dublin, prompting several delegates to compliment Intel on its ability to organise a ‘party’ in a brewery.

Back at the business end of the event, the push towards the platform is a tacit admission from Intel that the days of a speed hike every quarter driving customer demand for the latest high-specification processor are rapidly being consigned to history. For many customers, the incremental difference in performance speed actually means very little to them, so you need to give them something else that will persuade them that an upgrade makes sense.

Where speed was once king, Intel is now convinced the three Ps are set to take over: price, performance and power. And when Intel says power, it is referring to power consumption, heat emission and cooling requirements — key concerns for assemblers of servers and notebooks where space may be at a premium in the design.

The push towards the three Ps is a driving force behind product evolution at Intel. The vendor has become much more than a CPU vendor, and building powerful platform solutions that leverage its wider product portfolio is one chosen method for Intel to extend its channel footprint.

As the desktop sector waves bye-bye to boring beige boxes and ushers in a new era of cool, sleek and trendy form factors, the ability to source a tried and tested components platform that offers reliability and new design options will become crucial.

Progress is already being made in this direction. At last year’s EMEA IPP summit, Intel’s mock-up of the digital home of the future included a bog-standard desktop PC sitting in the living room acting as the home entertainment server that fed other devices around the home using a wireless network.

This year, the bog-standard desktop PC was nowhere to be seen in the living room, having been replaced by a virtually silent specifically designed media centre. Intel has played a key role in the development of this device, which looks more like a DVD player than a PC, and will now start working with its channel partners to bring the product to market under various different brand names.

When the talk turns to the digital home, the natural reaction from those working in developing markets or areas where spending power is limited and internet uptake remains slow tends to be, ‘great concept, come back in ten years when we’re finally ready for it’.

While the digital home undoubtedly remains a pivotal go-to-market message for Intel in developed markets around the world, the vendor giant is also pulling out all the stops to create the platforms and products that will be uniquely relevant to emerging markets as well.

One such effort has been the development of the iCafé concept PC in China with Intel playing a key role in this programme. Designed specifically for internet cafés, or environments where machines have multiple users, the iCafé PC comes with manageability software that allows an administrator to restore the original settings of the machine quickly and efficiently. In an internet café, the combination of hardware and software allows the machine to be reset centrally as soon as each user logs off.

This concept — already successful in China — is now being piloted in Turkey with a wider Middle East rollout also under long-term consideration. Intel is also looking closely at the type of standardised PC platform and machine that will be most suitable for areas such as rural India.

In the Middle East and Africa, the mission for vendors and the channel partners they work with is to ensure that the appropriate technology is being pushed into the appropriate market at the appropriate time. Not adhering to this simple rule can be a recipe for disaster.

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