Third-gen Intel vPro Technology debuts

During a "virtual event" on its website this afternoon, Intel unwrapped its third-generation vPro Technology. If you've been keeping track, you'll know Intel introduced the first vPro tech in early 2006 with the aim of simplifying enterprise PC management. Since its debut, vPro has allowed IT staff to administer machines remotely whether they're switched on, off, or suffering from hardware failures.

The 2008 vPro platform (a.k.a. McCreary) includes three key components: Intel's Q45 Express chipset, the 82567LM Gigabit Ethernet network controller, and existing Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors. The bundle brings new features that may make life easier for not just corporate IT staff, but also folks with small and medium businesses that don't have their own system admins.

McCreary brings Remote Alert, a feature that allows a "suddenly ailing PC" to call for assistance without user intervention. This can happen outside the company firewall, in which case the PC can hook into a remote IT console for troubleshooting. With the Fast Call for Help feature, users themselves can also ask for assistance by simply entering a keystroke—even if their systems are "completely crippled with a failed operating system or hard drive."

Of course, stepping up security means fewer problems to fix in the first place. McCreary helps on that front with the Remote Scheduled Maintenance functionality, which allows PCs to connect automatically to an IT management program for regular "tune-ups." McCreary systems let admins check comprehensive activity logs through the Access Monitor feature, too, and Intel claims to have the first embedded technology that lets PCs connect to secure Microsoft Network Access Protection networks.

What about small and medium businesses? For those, Intel has released a new, "user-friendly" IT Director application that "provides status on key system settings and health parameters, capability to block connection to risky USB devices and a data back-up feature that enables users to work seamlessly through hard-drive failures." On top of that, people in firms without in-house IT staff can use Intel's Remote PC Assist Technology to get remote assistance from IT contractors.

The Q45 Express chipset will likely hit its fair share of third-party motherboards and pre-built systems, but Intel has announced two desktop motherboards to go with the McCreary launch: the full-sized DQ45CB and the smaller DQ45EK. Intel says the latter is aimed at small-form-factor systems.

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