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Intel, Microsoft detail NetPC specifications

What will NetPCs include -- and when will they actually ship?

March  1997
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Hanover, Germany (March 12, 1997) -- Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. at the CeBIT show here today pushed their case for lowering business computing costs using NetPCs, but the two industry giants did not reveal much.

While the NetPC System Design Guideline was released to selected industry partners today "for feedback," it won't be made available to the public until the end of this month, said 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 $1,000, he added.

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, said 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, said Gelsinger. Compaq Computer Corp., 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, said Ken Willett, desktop business manager of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Compaq. The Houston-based Compaq's first batch of NetPCs are likely to be powered by 133-MHz and 166-MHz Pentium processors, said Willett.

In addition, the NetPC hardware configuration guidelines are expected to include the following: a sealed case; at least 16 megabytes of RAM; an internal hard drive; support for VGA graphics; and support for one or more communications standards, such as 10-megabits-per-second 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 that ensures that all hardware can be recognized and managed remotely, officials said.

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, said Intel's 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, said Gelsinger.

Here in Hanover, Intel also made what Gelsinger called 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.

Around 16 of Intel's OEM customers will also show Pentium II demos when the CeBIT show floor officially opens tomorrow, according to Gelsinger.

Intel competitors Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Cyrix Corp. later this week will also demonstrate their forthcoming Pentium II-class processors, code named K6 and M2, respectively.

--Terho Uimonen, IDG News Service, Taipei Bureau

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