Conroe might be business-bound in 2006

Intel is thinking about moving its Conroe processor into its recommended business PC configuration ahead of schedule.

Intel might accelerate the entry of Conroe, a forthcoming dual-core desktop processor, into the company's recommended configuration for business customers because of the leap in performance expected from the chip, according to an Intel executive.

Conroe would be Intel's first desktop processor based on a new chip-making architecture, Intel CEO, Paul Otellini, said.

By the time it arrived in the second half of 2006, Intel would be able to make the chip part of its Stable Image Platform Program (SIPP) without having to force IT managers to change their software images, general manager for digital office platforms at Intel, Gregory Bryant, said.

SIPP has been welcomed by IT managers fed up with trying to maintain multiple software images across their networks, Bryant said. A software image is a snapshot of the code present on an user's PC, and corporate IT departments use them to ensure new PCs will have a uniform set of software.

But every time Intel changes its chipset or processor technology, new drivers are required that produce new images. Since most IT departments roll out new PCs to a only a portion of their work force in a given period of time, IT managers can be left trying to manage a network with multiple software images from PC rollouts of past years and outdated technology.

In response, Intel created SIPP to ensure IT managers that if they bought the PC configuration listed as part of the Professional Business Platform, the underlying hardware and drivers in that program would not change for at least 12 months.

Usually Intel recommended products for SIPP that had been on the market for some time, in order to give IT managers enough time to evaluate PCs with those chips, Bryant said. This year, Intel recommended its single-core Pentium 4 processors as part of the Professional Business Platform instead of its newly introduced Pentium D dual-core chips.

Presler will be the designated processor for the 2006 business platform, Bryant said.

It is a version of the company's Pentium D chip that will come in a different package and will be built using more advanced manufacturing technology than its predecessors when it arrives in the first quarter of next year.

However, Conroe, which will arrive in the second half of next year, is expected to be twice as powerful as Presler. Conroe will use the new Intel architecture unveiled this week, which emphasises power savings over clock speed.

Conroe delivers such a boost in performance over Presler that Intel might make the chip the centrepiece of its business PC strategy ahead of schedule, when it is released in the second half of 2006, Bryant said.

Even though it uses a different blueprint than does Presler, Intel could ensure that Conroe wouldn't break software images by managing the release of drivers for Conroe-based PCs, he said.

Normally Presler would remain the business PC processor of choice throughout the early part of 2007, but Conroe might change that thinking.

Conroe would work with the chipsets designed for Presler and would be able to take advantage of new technologies such as virtualisation and Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT) right away, Bryant said.

AMT allows IT managers to send software updates or patches to PCs that are connected to a network even if the power is off.

Intel woulddefinitely push Conroe for consumer desktop PCs and business PCs for power users, such as design engineers or video editors, Bryant said. But the prospect of delivering a large increase in performance while keeping true to the principles of SIPP could move the chip up the priority list for mainstream business PC customers.

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