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Vista weighs heavily on minds at Intel

Intel shifts focus from earnings to hardware and emphasizes upcoming "Vista-Ready" product.

Chip maker Intel Corp. wants users to make this year's anticipated release of Vista not just a major software event but a hardware event as well.

Microsoft's next-generation desktop operating system is expected to be released sometime in the second half of 2006. Executives at Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., are eager for the new OS, counting on it to prompt hardware upgrades in many Windows shops.

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On the heels of a disappointing earnings report earlier this month, Intel CEO Paul Otellini promised a stronger 2006 and said the company will launch its first enterprise brand for desktop computers by mid-year. Intel executives said the enterprise desktop will be based on Intel's next-generation architecture, a dual-core microprocessor specifically designed for desktops code-named Conroe.

"Clearly we understand that IT managers are watching Vista closely," said Greg Boitano, Intel's manager of co-marketing programs. Boitano would not release any more details about the desktop product, but did say it would address the challenges that IT managers face in terms of systems manageability.

Lining up a product to coincide with a major OS release is to be expected, said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a Redmond, Wash.-based consulting firm. Whether or not Windows shops will want to upgrade and buy those products is another issue.

"There are a large number of machines capable of running Vista," Cherry said. "The real question is: What kind of machine can exploit Vista?"

Cherry points to several questions that still loom around the OS, which may hold Windows managers back from making any hardware purchases too quickly. Specifically, Cherry said he thinks Windows administrators may want to learn more about Vista's graphics capabilities before upgrading to new hardware.

"It appears you need a substantial graphics card with a graphics processor and substantial memory," he said.

Earlier this month, Intel also faced rumors that its longtime relationship with Dell Inc. is in trouble. One analyst claimed Dell is developing processors with rival chip-maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Neither Dell nor AMD would comment on the report.

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