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PC-Card alternatives put your notebook on a diet

Mini PCI to boost performance, increase standardization and save space.

December 1, 1998
Web posted at: 2:00 PM EST

by Ephraim Schwartz

(IDG) -- The growing popularity of thinner and lighter notebooks is putting the mobile PC industry on the fast track to incorporate alternatives to bulky PC Card technology.

The PCI Special Interest Group plans to release a Mini PCI specification for review and also plans to publish Version 1.0 in the first quarter of 1999.

In the second quarter of 1999, Acer, IBM, and NEC will incorporate the Mini PCI specification into their notebooks, according to sources familiar with the effort.

Mini PCI will eliminate the need for traditional network and modem PC Cards, thus cutting in half the space required for two stacked PC Cards.

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Because the PC Card card bus is a subset of PCI, it does not have the equivalent throughput of the full PCI bus. The miniature version of PCI will have the same throughput as a desktop, according to PCI Special Interest Group members.

Compaq Computer would not commit to when it would have a system enabled with Mini PCI, but said the industry is moving in that direction.

"Expect to see Mini PCI notebooks and options [from many vendors] on the market, definitely within the year," said Chuck Dourlet, director of strategic planning for Compaq's Portable PC Division, in Houston.

The technology also will aid standardization. "Currently, every integrated modem is unique to the portable that it goes in," Dourlet said. "Even notebooks from the same suppliers have different built-in modems."

Flash! Another standard coming

Another technology that will, over time, replace PC Cards is Compact Flash II according to Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights in Mountain View, California.

CF II has a small-enough area to allow two CF II slots to be placed side by side rather than stacked, which saves 5 millimeters of depth.

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