The microelectronics division of IBM has gone networkcentric. The company today announced a reference platform for a design using Lotus software, a Power PC chip and other IBM Microelectronics technology which will allow companies including Umax, Cisco and other companies to buy a kit at a cost of around $250.
Those OEMs are likely to customise the IBM Microelectronic units to their own taste and specification, according to Bill La Rosa, European VP of sales and marketing at the division.
But although IBM rivals may take the design, there is no certainty that his own corporation will displace the corporation, La Rosa said.
He said: "The NC division of IBM is a business unit with its own strategies and product roadmap. It wouldn't surprise me if they used it. Both use the Power PC architecture which is the future for this platform."
The reference kit includes a Java virtual machine, smart card support, a Power PC 603e processor and Lotus-based software, he said. The base software is likely to attract some licence fees. But, unusually for any NC so far seen, the machine has no DRAM apart from video memory on board, making it the first computer to use no memory. The Power PC chip in the reference design will run at 150MHz and 200MHz speeds.
IBM Microelectronics has changed its strategy, explained La Rosa. It will now offer platforms as well as products. With a claimed $7 billion market share, made up of microprocessors, memory and other devices, it is one of the biggest semiconductor companies in the world, he said.
The motherboards populated with a variety of functions including a PCI slot, a CD ROM interface, Ethernet capabilities and the usual array of sockets, is not just aimed at the PC market, La Rosa said. The company had realised convergence was now possible nad was negotiating with a number of suppliers to include the designs in set top boxes and other communications devices.
La Rosa said: "We've evolved from a product centric division back in 1992 to understanding what our customers want.
Although IBM Electronics will offer the platform to the corporation, that did not necessarily mean that it would replace the Net Station, La Rosa added.
* Cisco is to provide network servers to run thin clients, IBM Microelectronics said today. They, too, will use the Power PC chip.
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