Intel has officially launched its 6th Generation business PC platform, bringing the benefits of the Skylake Core processor technology to businesses and professional users, while building on capabilities such as wireless docking introduced in the previous generation.
The latest Intel business platform update includes the 6th Generation Core and Core vPro processors and encompasses desktop and mobile platforms, bringing the first quad-core mainstream laptops and the first Xeon chips designed for mobile workstations. It is optimised for Windows 10, according to Intel.
The platform also introduces features such as Intel Authenticate, which adds hardware support for multi-factor user authentication, and updates to Intel's Small Business Advantage support for SMBs, but does not as yet include capabilities Intel trailed last year, such as wireless charging.
Based on the Skylake architecture Intel introduced last year, the 2016 business platform enables mobile devices with up to 10 hours of battery life, a 30 times increase in graphics performance and up to 2.5 times the processor performance compared with previous generations.
"These are the best business platforms Intel has launched in its history," said Tom Garrison, Intel vice president and general manager for business client products.
However, unlike the previous launch that focused just on mobile, this time Intel is also refreshing its desktop platforms, including all-in-ones and mini-PCs. The new desktops show a 60 percent performance increase over systems based on the fourth-generation technology, which are now reaching the end of their lifecycle and being replaced.
The major enhancement in the 6th Generation business platform is Intel Authenticate, which is intended to bolster security by providing built-in support for multiple authentication technologies that can be used singly or in combination to verify user identity at log-in.
These include hardware protected PIN entry; the presence of a device such as a smartphone or wearable associated with that user; logical location; and biometrics such as a fingerprint.
"We're providing full policy-based multi-factor solutions so that IT decision makers can decide how many factors they want to specify, and in what cases and scenarios, and this is all stored in hardware," Garrison said.
Furthermore, the code that performs the authentication checking is in the firmware, making it more resistant to tampering by malware, Intel claimed.
The PIN feature is protected by generating the on-screen keypad directly from the Intel graphics card, and supports input by touchscreen or mouse only to prevent malware capturing key presses.
The logical location capability builds on Intel's Active Management Technology that constantly checks for nearby networks. If it detects it is on the corporate network, security policy can dictate that just one other factor is required to authenticate that user.
Fingerprint authentication also requires a new type of sensor that the user presses their finger against rather than swiping, Intel said. Few systems have so far implemented this.
Intel Authenticate is currently regarded as a ‘preview', which the firm said is so that customers can begin evaluating the technology with the 6th Generation platform, before deploying it fully at some point in the future.
"In the enterprise, we realise that people don't just take new capabilities and immediately deploy them in their environment; they first start testing it in capability trials, and once they have confidence from the trials, they will do testing in deployment trials," Garrison explained.
Intel went all out on wireless in last year's 5th Generation platform, introducing Pro WiDi for connecting to wireless displays, WiGig Wireless Docking for hot desking, and wireless charging.
Pro WiDi has seen over 300 corporate deployment trials since last year, while there are now double the number of WiGig Wireless Docks available, according to Intel. The odd man out is wireless charging, which is still under development.
Intel said in a statement that wireless power is "going through a process similar to that of other technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC", and that those technologies took many years before they became ubiquitous. Intel said it was working with partners in the AirFuel Alliance towards an industry standard specification that will drive adoption of the technology.
However, Intel did tout Thunderbolt 3 support in the new platform, which allows "one wire docking" using a single USB Type-C connection to carry DisplayPort, PCI Express and USB 3.1 data streams over a single 40Gbps link.
Intel has also updated its Small Business Advantage technology that provides a suite of tools for PCs targeting small to medium business customers. This comprises utilities to determine the health of the PC, chat and screen sharing tools, remote file access, data backup and restore and a USB blocker to control which devices can be connected to USB ports.
Intel claimed that there is significant support for the 6th Generation business platform, with over 200 business PC designs, more than 100 vPro designs, and more than 30 ultrabooks based on the technology in the pipeline.
"We believe that this is a turning point in terms of the capabilities of the system," Garrison said.
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