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Intel plots 'client-aware' cloud services

James Niccolai | Feb. 25, 2011
Intel wants the cloud to be a bit smarter.

FRAMINGHAM 25 FEBRUARY 2011 - Intel (INTC) wants the cloud to be a bit smarter.

The company is developing technologies that would allow applications and services delivered over the Internet to know more about the client device they are being accessed from, be it a PC, a tablet or a smartphone, and to tailor the services accordingly.

It doesn't sound that new: Application servers already tailor content to fit the screen of a smartphone, for example. But Intel wants to go a step further and provide detailed information about the processor type, the available bandwidth and even the amount of battery power left.

That should allow Web sites and advertisers to make wider use of rich content, such as high-definition video, instead of having to cater to a "lowest common denominator." They could deliver one version of a site to customers on a high-speed Wi-Fi network, for example, and a simple Web page to customers on a weak cellular connection.

It could also benefit e-commerce sites. For example, could warn customers with full shopping carts that their laptop battery was running low and advise them to check out quickly, or tell them their selections will be retained if they go offline and have to log in again later.

The technology isn't complicated. Intel has published beta versions of APIs (application programming interfaces) for accessing data about a device's processor, bandwidth and battery life. Web developers can employ the APIs by adding some fairly simple Javascript to their applications, said Daniel Chang, director of strategic alliances at NetSuite, which is piloting the technology.

NetSuite is best known for its online CRM (customer relationship management) applications, but it also hosts e-commerce Web sites for about 2,000 businesses. A half dozen of those stores, mostly those that want to display rich content such as high-definition video, are testing the APIs, Chang said. Gproxy, a Web design and hosting company in Miami, is part of the same pilot program.

"The technology is already there, it's just a question of adoption," Chang said.

One challenge for Intel is getting the main Web browsers to implement its APIs. The company said it's in talks with "a broad range" of service providers, software vendors and PC makers about supporting the technology, but it won't yet say who. In the meantime, e-commerce sites testing the APIs have to ask their end users to download a browser plug-in.

Intel says the processor API should work with devices based on x86 chips from other vendors. It hasn't tested it with non-Intel processors, but the API uses the CPU ID and the "processor brand string" to determine the processor type, and these are parts of the standard x86 instruction set, said Greg Boitano, marketing manager for Intel's Business Client Platform division.


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