Most IT managers are well aware that they have barely 200 shopping days to replace the Windows XP systems in their fleets before Microsoft stops supporting the 12-year-old operating system. That's the bad news. The good news is that he who hesitated is not lost. The early bird did not get the worm. If you've waited this long, you'll be rewarded for waiting at least another couple of days because there's a truly great class of systems that starts to come available later this week.
All of the major OEMs will begin rolling out these systems on the heels of news from the Intel Developer Forum, which begins Tuesday in San Francisco, that Intel's enterprise-ready Haswell processors -- fourth-generation Core chips with built-in vPro, the company's security and manageability package -- are now available.
The newest Core processors boast an impressive jump in power management along with a corresponding bump in performance. What that enables are impressively thin, light systems capable of handling anything you might throw at them during a typical day. For many of these new systems, all of that comes without the need to plug them into the wall for the duration of the work day.
That newfound lift in both battery life and processing power has been widely reported since Intel's fourth-generation Core chips first came to market in June. What's new this week is that Intel is folding its enterprise-class vPro technology into the lineup. It's all the same security and manageability features that IT managers have come to expect, plus a few new ones.
The PC market has sagged recently because many consumers are turned off or confused by Windows 8. But IT managers aren't bogged down by that issue. They've got the Windows XP deadline hanging over their heads, and it's compelling them to buy new systems over the next seven months.
Being compelled to buy couldn't happen at a better time because of the banner crop of systems coming out. A couple of the new PCs have been disclosed ahead of Intel's official vPro-enabled processor announcement, though most of the major OEMs will start to unveil theirs later this week. Many of them are traditional clamshells, though designs are trending decisively toward touch-enabled systems as well as some innovative form factors. I've got my eye on an as-yet-unannounced detachable: a clamshell that lets you separate the screen from the keyboard so that in a pinch you can use it as a tablet.
Intel's added a few things to the vPro bundle, with a new twist. VPro's always been all about making IT's job easier. The new vPro makes life easier for the rest of us, too -- with features such as built-in security for VPN certification, so you no longer need to type in a certificate each time you connect to the corporate network. So far, that works with market leader Cisco's offerings. Intel says it plans to support other players as well.
There's also location-based data embedded into the wireless stream, along with hooks for Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager, or SCCM, to find your PC. With that, IT can make it so that your system chooses whichever printer is closest to you at the moment, or homes in on the closest available conference room. That's a whole lot easier than scanning through all the corporate assets yourself. Thus far, the feature supports Cisco, Aruba and Aeroscout access points.
The new vPro bundle also includes an enterprise-class version of Intel's Wireless Display, or Wi-Di, technology. It enables you to quickly, easily and securely tie into the projector that's in the conference room you're using. Some newer projectors are compatible with the technology, though Wi-Di adapters can enable older projectors.
All of that's to say that, for this situation at least, the old axioms advocating quick action turned out to be bad advice. Waiting was the right choice. And now, finally, you only have to wait a little bit longer.