Intel Plans Centrino-Like Brand for Desktops

Intel is preparing a marketing strategy that will brand desktop PCs with a similar label that made its Centrino notebook technology a household name, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

The new desktop marketing strategy will include two separate brands, one for the digital home and one for the digital office. Consumers will hear about the benefits of Intel technology for streaming video, wireless media serving, or securing a PC. Corporate customers will be pitched PCs that can be centrally managed and partitioned, in addition to the security features, these sources say.

The concept has worked well for notebooks. Centrino is a brand that represents three Intel products. Notebook vendors that sell Centrino notebooks are selling systems with the Pentium M processor, the Intel 855 chip set, and an Intel Pro/Wireless chip. Those vendors get additional money from Intel for advertising campaigns where Centrino notebooks and the Centrino logo are featured prominently.

Intel has already talked about what it calls the "platformization" of the company, and plans to expand on that idea at a meeting for financial analysts next week in New York. Just like Centrino, the desktop version of the campaign will try to develop a platform brand, rather putting the primary focus on the processor itself.

Dual-Core Plans

This desktop effort won't begin in earnest until mid-to-late 2005, when Intel starts rolling out dual-core processors and the silicon enhancements it calls the "Ts." These are abbreviations of code names such as LT, or LaGrande Technology, a hardware-based security feature that will store protected content. Another feature, iAMT, or Intel Active Management Technology, allows IT administrators to manage problematic PCs remotely.

The chip sets for dual-core processors and these silicon enhancements will become available around June of next year, when Intel traditionally rolls out new chip set technologies. The company probably won't activate some of those capabilities until software is available later in 2005 or 2006 that can take advantage of the technologies, but the marketing messages will be ready to go at that point.

Like Centrino, each of the desktop brands will be made up of individual parts. The processor and chip set are two obvious components, and Intel could revive its plans for embedded wireless access points into desktop chip sets as a third component. The company will also likely tout the graphics and audio technologies in its chip sets as part of the campaign.

An Intel spokesperson declines to comment on Intel's future plans for marketing its desktop chips, but says it is not out of the question that Intel would pursue such a Centrino-style strategy, given the success of that campaign, but the company has nothing definitive to say about its plans at this time, she says.

Focus on the Desktop

Despite years of focus on next-generation mobile phones, notebook technology, the digital home, and high-end servers, chips for desktop PCs are still a major part of Intel's business.

Desktop PCs currently outsell notebook PCs by roughly 64 percent to 36 percent, says Stephen Baker, director of research with NPD Techworld in Reston, Virginia. Notebook shipments are growing at a much faster rate, but many consumers and corporations still like the simplicity of a low-cost desktop, he says.

Intel and its PC partners have traditionally sold desktops by pushing clock speed and performance, especially since the introduction of the Pentium 4 in 2000. The message was simple: clock speed goes up, performance goes up, user experience goes up.

But as Intel has found it harder to keep increasing the clock speed of its Pentium 4 processor in recent moths, it has been forced to de-emphasize clock speed and focus on other components of processor design as indicators of performance.

Instead, Intel wants to enhance the user experience by improving the security of a consumer PC or the manageability of a corporate system. Most mainstream desktop users rarely push against the performance limits of their systems, especially if all they are doing is browsing the Internet or composing word processing documents. Intel believes these users can be persuaded to buy new PCs to protect themselves against security threats or to set up home media networks.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Related:
Shop Tech Products at Amazon