Dell launches desktops without Intel processors

Dell Inc. has stepped away from long-time supplier Intel Corp., launching one desktop that spurns the chipmaker’s vPro business bundle and two others that use processors from chipmaking competitor Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD).

Dell will still build its new Dimension E520 and XPS 210 desktop PCs with a choice of Intel’s Pentium D or Core 2 Duo processors, the company said Tuesday. But for the first time, Dell will offer a choice of AMD’s Athlon and Sempron chips in the new Dimension E521 and C521 models.

For its new OptiPlex 745 business desktop, Dell said it developed its own bundle of business-friendly technologies instead of using Intel’s vPro platform. Intel has seen strong sales in recent years for bundles of software and hardware such as its Centrino package for wireless notebook PCs. The company launched vPro in September as an effort to extend that strategy to business desktops.

The company did not rule out the chance that it might add Intel’s bundle to future desktops, but said vPro had to mature first.

“We’ll continue to work with Intel to help them refine the technology,” said Dell’s chief technology officer, Kevin Kettler. He spoke during the company’s annual Technology Day meeting in New York. “There’s still work to be done to drive that technology as a fundamental, strong value for our end customers.”

He compared the current vPro bundle to early iterations of hardware-based security in Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chips. “Dell was a slow adopter of TPM, and that’s not because we didn’t know about them or forgot to ask about them. There are some cases where we’ve ultimately used a technology but waited for it to mature a little bit before adopting it,” Kettler said.

Dell competitors Hewlett-Packard Co. and Gateway Inc. both launched vPro-enabled desktops last week, prompting some analysts to ask why Dell was lagging despite its close relationship to Intel.

The answer is that Dell was assembling its own business bundle. The company’s OptiPlex 745 boosts security and eases IT management while reducing power draw. Those are the same selling points as vPro, and the Dell system even uses similar components, like Intel’s new Core 2 Duo processor and a TPM security chip.

The difference is that Dell chooses and integrates the remaining pieces, retaining more control over the final product. In October, Dell will add its own Client Manager module to the system, allowing IT managers to remotely boot and troubleshoot thousands of client systems from a single site. Intel does that trick with its Active Management Technology (AMT). Likewise, Dell chose its own partner for security and password protection, using Wave Systems Corp.’s Embassy Trust Suite.

Dell sells the OptiPlex 745 with a Core 2 Duo E6300 processor for US$899. The XPS 210 costs $1,190 for a premium entertainment package.

The Dimension E520 and E521 will go on sale Wednesday for $719 and $329, both with Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP Media Center OS, dual-core processors and multimedia options. The Dimension C521 will cost $359 but take up just half the space compared to the E520 and E521.

In another announcement Tuesday, Dell is extending its relationship with EMC Corp., adding another five years to their partnership in selling storage products such as the Dell/EMC AX100 and CX3 UltraScale networked storage systems. Together, the two companies have sold 34,000 networked storage systems to 10,000 customers since founding their alliance in 2001.

Related article: ‘Revitalized’ Dell promises extraordinary customer experience

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