Dell spurns Intel on desktops, embraces AMD

Dell launched two desktops that use AMD chips instead of Intel, and another that spurns Intel's vPro business bundle.

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

Dell will still build its new Dimension E520 (AUD$1,398) desktop PC 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 (AUD$1,348) and C521 (AUD$798) models.

For its new OptiPlex 745 business desktop (not available in Australia), 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 competitor Hewlett-Packard 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's Embassy Trust Suite.

The PCs are available now.

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Ben Ames

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