Intel, Microsoft allow peek at NetPC specifications

Intel and Microsoft have released baseline specs for the NetPC - but apart from again pitching the device as a way of lowering business computing costs, have not revealed much. A number of PC vendors arestill expected to start shipping NetPCs by the end of the second quarter.

Intel and Microsoft have released baseline specs for the NetPC - but apart from again pitching the device as a way of lowering business computing costs, have not revealed much.

While the NetPC System Design Guideline was released to selected industry partners at this week's CeBIT show "for feedback," it won't be made available to the public until the end of this month, according to Pat Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of desktop products at Intel.

The baseline specifications support both Intel's Wired for Management and Microsoft's Zero Administration initiatives, and will allow PC vendors to deliver compliant NetPCs at prices starting below US$1000, he says.

NetPCs will come in sealed boxes with all management, upgrading and software installation to be deployed remotely from a server.

By not letting the individual end user tamper with the NetPC, Intel and Microsoft are delivering a computing device requested by corporate customers, says Moshe Dunie, vice president of Windows operating systems at Microsoft.

A number of PC vendors are expected to start shipping NetPCs by the end of the second quarter, says Gelsinger.

Compaq Computer, the world's number one PC vendor, however, will not be among them.

Intel's time frame is "very aggressive," and Compaq is expecting to ship its first NetPC models first early in the second half, says Ken Willett, desktop business manager of Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Compaq. Compaq's first batch of NetPCs are likely to be powered by 133-MHz and 166-MHz Pentium processors.

In addition, the NetPC hardware configuration guidelines are expected to include the following: a sealed case; at least 16Mb of Ram; an internal hard drive; support for VGA graphics; and support for one or more communications standards, such as Ethernet, token ring, or a modem.

NetPCs will be text book examples of Plug-and-Play compatibility, since they will not feature 16-bit ISA expansion slots, but only 32-bit PCI slots which ensures that all hardware can be recognized and managed remotely,according to officials.

Device drivers and software installation deployment are specified to meet Microsoft's Windows 95 and Windows NT standards.

However, PC vendors are also expected to ship higher-end NetPCs, including models powered by the forthcoming Pentium II processor, by June, says Gelsinger.

In the future, Intel also plans to migrate the manageability features built into the baseline NetPC onto other platforms, including notebooks, servers and workstations, says Gelsinger.

Intel also chose the hanover show to make what Gelsinger says was the first-ever public demonstration of the Pentium II family of processors, the MMX-enhanced version of the Pentium Pro, and announced that it will ship the chip in the second quarter. As many as 16 of Intel's OEM customers subsequently showed Pentium II demos when the CeBIT show floor officially opened.

Intel competitors Advanced Micro Devices and Cyrix demonstrated their forthcoming Pentium II-class processors, code named K6 and M2, respectively, later in the week.

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