Intel's plans to make maintenance of PCs easier through its NLX motherboard specification have run into trouble.
The board design, set to be incorporated into a number of mainstream PC vendors' designs, allows peripherals such as hard drives, CD-ROMs and serial/parallel ports to be kept separate, so that motherboards can be simply slid in and out of cases to be upgraded. The NLX motherboard design is supposed to be pinless, thus not supporting cards.
But last week, Glen Koskela, manager of product marketing at Fujitsu-ICL, said that a forthcoming upgrade of Intel's Advanced Graphics Port (AGP) meant that it had to discard Intel's NLX motherboard design because its upgrade feature does not work alongside an AGP card.
This will increase the total cost of ownership of PCs, he said. Other manufacturers, he claimed, will have to follow suit.
Mark West, marketing executive of desktops at Toshiba UK, said that while his company had an NLX design slated for release, he was unable to say whether it would have to bypass Intel's motherboard upgrade solution.
He said: "Toshiba is doing NLX machines but they should be OK as long as people don't use an AGP chipset card. By the time we introduce our machines, my belief is that AGP will be pretty well integrated on a motherboard."
But others say that while integrating AGP on the motherboard allows users to have the NLX easy upgrade feature, it gives lower performance than a card.
Ralph Heredia, manager of PC architecture at the Cirrus designer lab, said: "The AGP specification was designed independently of NLX. If vendors have AGP cards installed, that makes it a little more difficult in terms of cost of ownership."
Intel declined to comment on the furore but said it will introduce further improvements to its Wired for Management specification, which also aims to lower cost of ownership and ease PC maintenance. The improvements will include methods of PC self-diagnosis, where the machine will identify problems and alert human operators.
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