Better laptop management will be the exciting part of the new business-orientated Centrino Pro laptops due to be launched today, not the faster Wi-Fi provided by draft 802.11, according to Intel.
Remote management based on Intel's vPro, and faster Wi-Fi based on draft 802.11n are the main additions to the Centrino Pro specification, but Intel believes business users will be most excited about vPro, which could make their laptops as manageable as desktops.
"As an IT manager, you get to manage your mobile estate with the same tools you're already comfortable with on the desktop," said Arun Shenoy, director of digital enterprise for Intel UK, speaking before today's launch of the brand, which will be supported by up to 230 laptops over the next couple of weeks, with major brands including Lenovo, Acer, HP and Dell expected to be in the first wave.
"vPro will allow businesses to manage their clients, in situations where they could not be managed before," he said. Centrino Pro laptops can be set up to isolate themselves if they are under virus attack, and contact the management console for remediation. If a laptop can't boot, it can alert the management console, and be rebooted from a remote stored image, he said.
Launched in 2003, Centrino has sought to improve four laptop characteristics: performance, battery life, size and wireless performance. Centrino Pro improves all four once again, but adds a fifth vector, said Shenoy: manageability, using vPro, a built in management client which Intel launched last October, that allows management software to control clients.
Centrino Pro will be accompanied by Centrino Duo, a consumer-grade version without vPro. "There could be a price premium for Centrino Pro," said Shenoy, but pointed out that pricing is up to laptop makers, who have some 230 models ready for launch. "We expect all leading vendors to have systems by end of this year."
In wireless connections, Centrino Pro will have a "five times" speed boost over existing Centrino laptops, thanks to dual-band draft 802.11n Wi-Fi. This will create laptops that run faster than wired enterprise networks, and will push the adoption of 802.11n in businesses and public hotspots, said Shenoy.
"We would like to see hotspot providers moving quickly," he said, pointing out that the population of draft N latops could rise quickly since draft N modules are available as an upgrade to existing Centrino laptops.
Obviously, more draft N hotspots would be an extra incentive to buy Centrino Pro or Centrino Duo laptops, since otherwise they only get draft N speeds on their home networks: "Our expectation is that hotspots should start moving to draft N in the coming months and quarters," said Shenoy.
Despite its maturity, 3G remains outside the mandatory part of Centrino, while the still-emerging WiMax is lined up for possible inclusion when it is mature enough. "In future generations, the platform can be extended, and we will look at WiMax and other 4G connectivity," said Shenoy.