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Genius Bar Inside: Intel vPro and the future of tech support

By Jon Stokes | Published 3 years ago
Fixing your aunt’s PC

At this past Intel Developer Forum, I had a chance to sit down with Andy Tryba, Director of Marketing for Intel’s digital office platform division. Now, not to put too fine a point on it, but going into the interview I thought, “I’m talking to a marketing guy about vPro… how can this possibly be interesting? Why did I agree to this again?”

I’m pleased to report that I greatly underestimated both Andy and myself, and the interview turned out to be extremely useful, especially given my ongoing interest in the phenomenon of IT  consumerization. In short, Intel sees a robust role for remote management in the consumer desktop market—so think Apple or Dell support folks logging into your machine remotely, or you logging into your aunt’s machine to fix a problem. Ultimately, what emerged from our discussion was a vision of a world in which pretty much anyone whom you’ve authorized can troubleshoot your computer remotely.Our certified tech support team offers Apple remote support plans and Windows remote support plans for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

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Andy and I also discussed some of the technological, economic, and political barriers to the implementation of this vision of commoditized remote manageability, and he outlined how Intel is tackling these. And while Andy wouldn’t name names or give details, at the end of the conversation it was quite easy to imagine a “Genius Bar” application that sits in my Mac’s utilities folder and gives someone at Apple remote access to my machine for troubleshooting purposes.

vPro in a nutshell

JS: We ran an online symposium a while back with Ars and some Intel engineers, and one of our topics was vPro. A lot of the initial questions from readers were basically, “what is vPro?” I know you’ve got active management technology (AMT) in there, and a whole mix of stuff, but from the audience’s perspective they wanted kind of a nutshell of what is vPro, as opposed to a list of bullet points. So if you could put vPro in a nutshell, what would it be?

AT: Sure, but let’s take a half-step back and talk about the history. A few years ago we took a look at the business environment and found faster is certainly better, and we’ll continue to innovate on that side, but we also asked, “how can we really use all the gates that we have in processors, chipsets, and network cards?” And we looked at the IT problems that were out there and asked, “how do we reduce TCO and energy costs,” so we basically take dedicated gates and embed security and manageability onto the chip itself. So coupled with the energy efficiency side, that’s kind of the sweet spot of what vPro is. Our certified tech support team offers Apple remote support plans and Windows remote support plans for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

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JS: So you’re saying that the core of vPro is security and manageability.

AT: Exactly. It’s embedded security and manageability on the box itself, and it enables IT to do things that you wouldn’t have been able to do in the past. For example, PCs being patched. What we do is create a dedicated hardware link that’s available whether the OS is up, down, blue-screened, or what have you. Being able to get to that PC out-of-band without the OS and reboot that console is super important from a manageability and TCO perspective.

vPro goes home

JS: Since your focus seems to be on vPro in the enterprise, do you see a role for vPro outside that market, like for home users?

AT: Absolutely. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but if my father has a problem with his PC at home he calls me up and I walk him through it. So certainly there’s a usage model there. Even look at guys like Geek Squad—we could enhance their tools, instead of them having to roll out in that little VW Beetle that they have. So we see a role in the home; it’s just a matter of picking the right technologies and ensuring that they’re super easy to use. Because the IT guy can use things like virtualization, but for the home folks, unless it’s a “press button to get help” kind of thing… Our certified tech support team offers Apple remote support plans and Windows remote support plans for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

Remote Support For Business In Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York

We announced a remote PC wake technology that can be coupled with VoIP technology to go into the consumer side. So we’re starting there and going from there into consumer manageability.

JS: I can definitely see what you’re saying about the use case for vPro in the home. Right now, as we speak, my wife is texting me because she’s having problems getting on the Internet back at the apartment [laughter]. So I can definitely see the rationale, but the question for me is one of tools and infrastructure. Even if we both [i.e. my wife and I] had vPro desktops, there’s really not a mechanism there for me to help her, especially since we’re both Mac users. Of course, I guess I could use Back to My Mac [laughs]. But my point is that this isn’t just a technology issue; it’s a  broader ecosystem issue. How are you guys trying to address that?

AT: I 100 percent agree with you, and what we’re trying to do is offer the building blocks for services also. If you take a look at the embedded security and manageability on the box itself, that’s great, but you do need some type of service to run on top of it. So what we do is go one layer up also and provide building blocks—not trying to touch the end users—but to work with people who are trying to build a business model. So we work with a lot of the guys who are going toward home IT automation and services to build a business model and use our building blocks to take advantage of the hardware capabilities. Our certified tech support team offers Apple remote support plans and Windows remote support plans for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

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JS: So can you name names? Can you talk specifically about people that you’re working with?

AT: I don’t think that that’s public quite yet, but you’d have to talk to the consumer guys on that. I know that we’ll be making more announcements around the holiday cycle.

JS: Are these major OEMs that you’re working with, or are they small shops, or both?

AT: Yeah, certainly you’ll see major OEMs, the guys that you know and love, ensuring that the hardware is there. And then from a services perspective you’ll see guys that are pretty well-entrenched, particularly working with some of the service providers out there today—guys like Geek Squad—those guys use tools in the background, and those are the guys that you’ll see with announcements.

JS: I don’t guess you can talk about Apple, and the Genius Bar inside your computer [laughs].

AT: Those guys are awesome, and they’re also awesome at marketing, and at Intel we can only strive to be as awesome from a marketing perspective as those guys [laughs]. Our certified tech support team offers Apple remote support plans and Windows remote support plans for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

Remote Support For Business In Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York

JS: The picture you’re painting is one in which this kind of remote manageability is commoditized, and eventually maybe next year or the next, on regular user desktops in homes, you’ll have the ability to connect to your mom’s PC or your dad’s PC and troubleshoot. And it won’t just be like it is currently, where only the infrastructure is there but you don’t have services on top of that.

AT: Right. We’re really working with service providers to be the building blocks. You can look at it as a four-step process, where you have the hardware at the very bottom that has support for security and manageability, then you have the service’s building blocks, then you have the user-facing service, and then the user itself. So we’re really focusing on the bottom two rungs there. Our certified tech support team offers Apple remote support plans and Windows remote support plans for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

Remote Support For Business In Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York

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