Intel's vPro Core chips advance wire-free computing with wireless dock, Pro WiDi tech

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Intel brought its fifth-generation Core technology to business PCs on Thursday, launching its new Core vPro processors alongside components of its “wire-free” vision of computing.

Twelve PC makers plan to launch VPro-equipped PCs in the coming weeks, Intel said, complete with support for two technologies that Intel included inside the vPro processors themselves: Intel’s Pro Wireless Display (Pro WiDi, for short) and Intel Wireless Docking. Both technologies will require external hardware, but they also promise to help eliminate cables needed for wired connectivity.

“Our goal is to enable all users to simply work better by offsetting the growing challenges of today’s businesses,” said Tom Garrison, vice president and general manager of Intel’s business client platforms, in a statement. “With new devices based on 5th generation Intel Core vPro processors, we aim to transform the user experience by helping them compute from virtually anywhere without the clutter and burden of wires.”

Why this matters: Even today, scheduling a meeting and enabling audio and video connections can be a headache. Toss in screen sharing, and the problem only becomes more complicated. Intel’s vPro solution might not be the best out there, but if a corporate IT department settles on vPro-equipped laptops, at least there’s some assurance that it will work together.

Moving toward wire-free computing

Freeing the laptop from a tangle of wires has been a dream for years, but only recently have all the pieces fallen into place. It started with wireless connectivity: Intel’s 2003 Pentium M first bundled together a processor, chipset and wireless radio. But Intel’s most recent wire-free vision uses 7-Gbit WiGig technology, combining four 802.11ad radio channels. The vPro version also supports Pro WiDi, a secured version of the existing WiDi technology. Later this year, in time for the Skylake platform, Intel will unveil the final pieces of its wire-free puzzle: wireless charging and integrated cellular WWAN technology

Intel has already unveiled its Wireless Dock, its own branded hardware that uses WiGig to connect to the vPro laptop. While laptops that used the WiGig 7-gigabit wireless protocol were difficult to find at the time of the dock’s launch, the introduction of vPro should make them much more widely available. As the name suggests, the Dock serves as a physical hub for connecting USB hard drives and displays; it just doesn’t have to be physically connected to the laptop itself. Intel hasn’t announced a price for the Dock, however.

The advantage of the Wireless Docking technology is that your laptop will connect, whether asleep or awake. Closing your laptop, in fact, will simply shift your display to an external monitor that’s connected, Intel said. The signal itself is optimized to replace HDMI.

Customers will have to buy their own WiDi Pro dongles to go along with their new vPro laptops, Intel said, from manufacturers like ActionTec. WiDi adapters today cost about $50 to $70.

The WiDi Pro features improve security, Intel says, by requiring them to identify themselves to a corporate network, where they can be approved and managed. Presentations made using the technology can be placed either into an exclusive presenter mode, a shared mode between notebooks, or a moderated mode where the display can be handed off. 

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