How Intel Unite keeps projectors and meetings on track

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Intel Unite In Action

Credit: Patrick Moorhead

One of the biggest meeting time wasters is the difficulty of connecting cables to projectors. Intel hopes to solve this with its new Unite platform.

I haven’t been an analyst my whole career. I like to tell tech companies I had a “real job” like theirs for over 20 years before I founded my boutique analyst, advising and consulting firm nearly four years ago. I don’t say “real job” to denigrate the technology industry analyst craft, but rather to let them know I held P&L, budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars, project reviews, performance appraisals, board and exec reviews. I was like them. 

I sat in meetings, lots of meetings — ideation, staff, review, status, budget, decision, board, LT and program management meetings. I would say that on average, if a projector was used, 25 percent of that meeting was spent trying to fix the projector. I spent a few days with Intel’s new Unite platform, and I feel like it’s the closest thing I’ve used in a decade to fixing projector hell.

We all know that projectors are a hellish experience. Let me start by explaining why. One reason is obvious as you enter the conference room and see what is physically connected to the projector. There’s a hydra of connectors and cables.

Enterprises couldn’t let go of VGA, invented in 1987, because they wanted to “protect their investment” in VGA projectors. That set the trend, so now every kind of display adapter needed to be supported, and that’s what you see in conference rooms.

You’ll see connectors and adapters for VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, etc. Cables To Go has a nice index of all the different popular video connectors. Now imagine how many of the cables, dongles and pins have become worn or lost. Now think of how those different cables actually interact with your PC and the projector. Analog video cables don’t work the same as digital cables and, by the way, interact differently based on the version of Windows or OSX or even the AMD, Intel or Nvidia graphics. Every one of these issues equates to lost time and productivity spent figuring out why the projector isn’t working instead of getting the real job done.

Now put mobility into the equation. Consider smartphones and tablets and their unique physical projector connectors. Ever heard of SlimPort, another display port? How about USB-C? Now think of the different ways to display video in iOS, Android and Windows Mobile/Phone. Dizzying.

While many of you would love to use all of this to stop meetings, period, but you and I won’t get off that easily.

Intel has come up with Unite, a combination of a vPro processor-powered mini PC and the Intel Unite application. If Intel can deliver the goods with their OEMs and channel partners, the entire meeting room will bow down to the Intel Unite god.

The Unite platform physically sits in the conference room, and meeting attendees in the room can log directly into Unite with the use of a rotating six-digit PIN. I used it in my small business “conference room,” an area of my house that has a 70-inch display and seating for about 15. Normally, one would need to pass a cable around the room or use an Apple TV if someone had a Mac.

I loaded the Unite app on three Windows PCs, connected to the mini PC over WiFi, entered the six-digit PIN, and we were in business. One, two or three people could have content on the display at the same time. I could annotate the presentation. I could send files peer-to-peer. What I didn’t get to do, which I will soon, was to enable outside access to someone on the road.

I used Unite in its simplest form, but it’s designed for medium and large companies, too. Unite works with Cisco Telepresence and Lync through a plug-in, ecosystem-building methodology. Intel says that “Unite software is designed to slot into existing IT client deployment models. IT shops with Intel vPro technology can use existing management tools, systems and policies already in place.” That’s lofty-sounding but required to make Unite a success. So there's no need for a rip and replace. That’s nice. Intel is also offering a server installer for a server-based deployment in V1.0.

Meeting security is a primary concern of any new tool that is brought in the door. While there are never security guarantees in life or business, the key is to do business with companies who invest in security. Intel is no stranger to security in client platforms or in the data center. Given Unite slots into the current security infrastructure, this limits the threat matrix. The rotating pin and the 256-bit SSL encryption helps, too.

If Intel, their OEMs and channel partners do nothing but eliminate the unreliable hydra of cables with display sharing, they have accomplished a lot. File sharing, annotations and lighting environmental controls are just gravy. I give Intel a lot of credit for biting off one of business's biggest time and productivity suckers, meeting cable hell.

Disclosure: My firm, Moor Insights & Strategy, like all research and analyst firms, provides or has provided research, analysis, advising and/or consulting to many high-tech companies in the industry, including Intel, cited in this article. No employees at the firm hold any equity positions with any companies cited.

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