Buying New PCs Brings Swift Return, Intel Urges

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Hurt by enterprises putting off PC purchases, Intel Corp. last week presented research purporting to show that large companies that buy new PCs equipped with its vPro security and management technology can recoup their investment in less than a year.

A company with 30,000 PCs that upgrades to new Core 2 Duo or Quad computers would make its money back in 17 months -- and in just 10 months if those PCs are also equipped with vPro-enabled motherboards, according to Intel.

One analyst, however, said such ROI figures apply only to a limited set of firms and do not encompass other costs of PC upgrades, such as buying or upgrading new software licenses, something many companies have also been delaying.

"This might make sense for IT outsourcing firms or very large companies," said Jim McGregor, an analyst with In-Stat. "But for many of us, this is the worst economic downturn of our lives. Unless it fits in your company budget, it doesn't make sense."

According to an Intel-commissioned survey by Wipro Consulting of 106 North American and European companies, only 32% have slowed their PC refresh rates in the last six months. The majority, 60%, of the companies haven't changed their PC upgrade policy, while 8% have actually accelerated them. The companies that were surveyed had a minimum of 5,000 PCs if they were based in North America, 2,500 if they're located in Europe.

"Corporate IT is overdue for an update from Windows XP," said Rob Crook, general manager and vice-president for Intel's business client group. "Yes, it's tough economic times, but those who can, are [upgrading]."

Though still profitable, Intel blamed delayed PC upgrades on down revenues in recent months.

Slower PC upgrades mean that many enterprises haven't tried out vPro, which Intel launched in April 2006. The first desktop PCs featuring the technology began shipping about several months later.

vPro enables a number of services such as Active Management Technology (AMT) that allow IT managers to remotely configure and set policies for PCs, and Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) to enforce security policies.

According to independent analyst, Jack Gold, only 10% to 15% of enterprise PCs deployed today have vPro today. Gold released research last week showing that upgrading laptops makes financial sense, primarily due to the cost of maintaining breakage-prone, out-of-warranty hardware.

Desktop PCs don't have that problem, Gold said. Upgrading to new vPro-enabled PCs on the desktop side can still be financially smart, though he said the payback is less straightforward than Intel may make it sound.

TXT is supposed to be more secure because it is in the hardware, not software, layer. That didn't stop security experts from breaking TXT earlier this year, and explaining how it was done.

McGregor still praises vPro's features. But he says vPro technology needs to be paired with strong back-end management tools and run in large environments for it to translate into increased security and lower costs.

This story, "Buying New PCs Brings Swift Return, Intel Urges" was originally published by Computerworld.

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