Intel two weeks ago quietly launched an online community to solicit suggestions from users, partners and others for new features in the next generation of its vPro chips.
Company officials speaking on a panel last Friday at the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco said they expect that the company's chip developers will begin taking advantage of the suggestions within six months.
"We are trying to take the online community and snap it in to our end user feedback [mechanism]," said Josh Hilliker, community manager of the site, called the Intel vPro Expert Centre. "We're going to open up to the community to tell us what they want. We're going to take this and put it right back into silicon and announce new features."
He said the company created the site to help OEMs and users share information and best practices for configuring and using vPro technology, which was first introduced by Intel a year ago.
"We need to decrease the integration time of vPro into IT shops," he added. "We're using the community to do that. We want to do knowledge transfer -- taking our intellectual data and passing it to the community. To think that Intel has all the data ... doesn't work anymore."
Intel's vPro support team initially expressed fears that the site may prompt a deluge of support calls, "but we're not going to overtake support."
The site, he said, will let users get some answers from each other. "What we're hoping for is that as the community expands and we get more breadth and depth ... they will respond faster than support. Not that it is support, but you will probably get a faster answer [from the community]," he added.
Robert Duffy, Intel's online communities strategist, added that some of the impetus behind creating the community was to boost online traffic to Intel. He acknowledged that the company's primary site, Intel.com, has been "losing relevance" as its traffic has been flat for the past few years.
In just two weeks, he said, Intel has noted than when it posts a document on the online community, it outperforms the corporate site 10 to one in traffic.
On Intel.com, "it doesn't fly," he said. "You throw it on the community where people can weigh in. Then it seems to work. We need to have a voice directly with the customers rather than just with our OEMs. We're already seeing it pay off."