Toshiba Corp. will begin baking in IBM’s end-point management control into the BIOS of its business-line laptops to give IT departments control over security and power functions before the operating system even loads, the manufacturer announced today at IBM’s Pulse conference in Las Vegas.
Toshiba’s Tecra and Portege line of laptops will include the software compatible with Tivoli Endpoint Manager by no later than June of this year. This allows IT administrators to put in place strict security measures to curb the potential impact of laptop loss of theft, and mange energy use through a central dashboard. It’s the first time Toshiba has included end-point management features at the hardware level.
“Before going into the OS, the BIOS can talk with the [company’s] servers,” says Taro Hiyama, chief marketing executive of digital products & services at Toshiba. “That’s more secure, it’s so difficult to hack into.”
IBM’s Tivoli Endpoint Manager is inherited from its acquisition of Emeryville, Calif.-based BigFix Inc., noted Scott Hebner, vice-president of marketing at IBM Software Group. With version 8.2 of the software, released early this year, mobile devices are included as endpoints attached to the organization.
“We’re broadening the perspective of what an endpoint is,” he says. “It will help manage power consumption much better, security capabilities, all those things.”
The technology is similar to Intel’s vPro feature in its CPUs, which gives IT administrators access to the hardware layer of end-points to do things like send a “poison pill” to a lost laptop to wipe its hard drive once it connects to the Internet. But Toshiba’s technology will give admins even greater control over those laptops.
One feature lets admins set power usage profiles based on time of the day and week, to avoid high energy consumption during peak hours when utilities charge more for electricity. Another locks a PC unless it is authenticated by a central management server, or a USB drive carried by the employee.
Those features can only be accessed by IBM’s Tivoli Endpoint Management software, and one analyst wonders if that’s too limiting.
“I’m a bit confused as to why they’d go with a single vendor,” says Justin Speake, the CEO of U.K.-based Bloor Research. “It smacks a bit of desperation.”
Toshiba has been losing market share in the notebook space over the last several quarters. In IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker for the last quarter of 2011, it didn’t crack the top five vendors, placing behind HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer Group and Asus.
It’s possible Toshiba is jockeying for a closer relationship with Big Blue, Speake says. An “attempt to increase their chances of winning a big share of IBM’s laptop wallet.”
Other features of Tivoli Endpoint Management include a security lock triggered by facial recognition technology. A laptop can be set up so that if it notices no human is sitting in front of it, it locks the screen.
Also, a patch management capability allows for software updates to be rolled out to all users in an organization.