Intel and Microsoft announced today a broad specification for a reference design for the NetPC, to coincide with the beginning of the Cebit trade show in Hanover.
At the same time, Intel gave its first public airing of the Pentium II processor, formerly codenamed Klamath. The company also gave a broad outline of its strategies for business computing.
Pat Getsinger, vice president of desktop products at Intel US, indicated that the Pentium and Pentium Pro chips will eventually be displaced by the Pentium II. He claimed performance of the Pentium II will be superior to the Pro. "It will be the highest performance processor, far exceeding speeds of 200MHz."
Intel will continue to evolve additional processors but Getsinger said 32-bit architectures were unlikely to disappear soon. "We cannot see an end to the IA 32 architecture yet," he said. It was unlikely to be displaced by Intel's 64-bit processor, Merced IA 64, for some time.
Getsinger said he expected to see a number of OEMs make NetPCs through this year. He added that end users could expect to see the NetPC in business use in 1998. Some PC manufacturers will produce NetPCs within the next 90 days, he said.
The reference design is the result of collaboration between Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and Dell. NetPCs will offer 'zero maintenance' options that claim to provide cost of ownership as low as that of the emerging network computers. All hardware devices can be managed from one point - even home appliances if required - and there are remote troubleshooting options.
The NetPC specification includes automatic configuration and installation over the network, and the machines will come with a sealed case to prevent end user modifications to the hardware. Although they will have no ISA slots, they will be upgradeable.
Microsoft and Intel will work together to provide a migration path when they iron out the details of advanced management in a future NetPC specification.
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