Intel looking at remote management features for tablets

Intel hopes to make it easy for IT administrators to rope in the manageability of mobile devices such as tablets

As businesses increasingly adopt tablets, Intel wants to bring those devices under control by implementing remote management and security capabilities in hardware and software, the company said this week.

Intel hopes to add some capabilities found in its VPro platform so organizations can remotely protect data and support mobile devices such as tablets, said Lisa Watts, director of ecosystem development for Intel's business client platform division. The VPro platform combines hardware and software to manage and secure PCs through wired and wireless networks, and is currently available only for PCs and some low-end servers.

Tablets such as Apple's iPad are being used in enterprises for tasks that include voice communications and viewing corporate documents. IT managers want to bring consistency to how they manage and secure mobile devices, Watts said. The company has gotten many requests for VPro capabilities to be in companion devices beyond just PCs, Watt said.

Remotely disabling mobile devices in most cases involves wiping out data, but Intel wants to deliver technology that could remotely disable devices while keeping data intact.

"We're trying to make that balance between security of the data and the device itself, and 'Can I have a happy medium there where I don't have to lose all that information.' I think you'll see that when we get down the line," Watts said.

Intel this week introduced a version of the VPro platform for PCs, which includes antitheft technology that allows IT managers to remotely disable stolen or lost PCs by sending a text message. Laptops won't boot after the text is sent, but data on the PC's storage drive remains intact. Users can enable the laptop through a code provided by the IT department. Data remains secure if the storage drive is encrypted. In the previous version of VPro, laptops were disabled only through Wi-Fi and wired networks.

The VPro platform's antitheft feature also includes GPS technology, which allows laptops to be tracked. The feature also helps set boundaries so laptops can be kept within specific confines.

Antitheft technology is one of the features that could be seen in the security and remote management platforms for mobile devices, which are still in the early stages of development, Watts said. Intel is looking at 12 different usage models that could drive the design of such a platform.

"We've gotten many requests for the capabilities... to be in additional devices," Watts said. "It's definitely taking a look at how the companion devices work with a VPro machine even as a first step [that] is very interesting to us."

The new VPro platform utilizes a specific management engine in the chipset to help remotely support laptops and provision software. The VPro platform helps cut support costs by reducing the number of visits to support PCs.

A feature called KVM (Keyboard-Video-Mouse) Remote Control helps establish a stable connection to remote PCs for troubleshooting. System administrators get preboot access to systems, which helps solve problems including disk and OS failure. The VPro platform takes advantage of the recently released Core i5 and Core i7 chips based on the new Sandy Bridge microarchitecture for faster encryption and improved graphics over KVM sessions.

Intel has also improved security in the new VPro platform. Intel has integrated a security layer on its VPro chipset and is working with Symantec to bring identity theft protection for users logging into websites relying on multifactor authentication, like online banks. Through the browser, a website gathers token information stored inside the chipset, which establishes the first layer of authentication, leaving users to only to enter the user name and password.

Intel is trying to make its way in the burgeoning tablet market, where it trails ARM, whose processors are used in most tablets. But some business tablets, such as Hewlett-Packard's Slate 500 and Cisco's upcoming Cius, are based on Intel's low-power Atom processors.

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