History would tell you that whenever Intel releases a new chip generation there is an inevitable lag between its release date and when it is taken up by the vendors. But his-tory would be wrong in the case of the Intel Pentium with MMX Technology, with a host of vendors releasing MMX-based systems within weeks of its release.
One who will do so is Fujitsu. The company is looking to use the MMX chips to take a leadership position in the highly competitive PC market, and is incorporating it into its professional PC line as early as February.
Speaking at a joint Intel/Fujitsu ICL Computers MMX briefing in Sweden late last year, Glen Koskela, Fujitsu's Finland-based product marketing manager for the ErgoPro range, says Fujitsu systems were the first world-wide to be verified by Intel with the new processor. Koskela says Fujitsu systems were actually used by Intel in testing the chip, the company having previously worked with Intel on the P6 definition project.
While the MMX processor is based on the Pentium architecture, it is not accepted by all Pentium motherboards (see story below). But by working closely with Intel, Koskela says Fujitsu has been able to incorporate MMX-compatible motherboards in its systems since Spring. The result is a stable motherboard platform for corporate buyers. "We didn't want to create a totally new platform for MMX," he said. "This enables them to have the same platform for both the classic versions and the MMX versions. The BIOS is not the same, but the overall architecture is the same. And they can then decide themselves whether they want to be sold MMX or not."
By planning for MMX from an early stage, Koskela says Fujitsu has not been caught with incompatible systems. "There are companies who launched products in the middle of last winter and at that time the P55C validation was not passed by Intel." He suspects some vendors have been scrambling to redesign systems to cater for the new chip.
While Fujitsu has been putting a great deal of emphasis on its work with the MMX processor, Koskela says this is only one new technology Fujitsu is looking to incorporate into its systems. Its research laboratories in Sweden have also been putting significant time into other initiatives, such as remote administration. Fujitsu has been busy designing new BIOS systems to capitalise on the multi-vendor defined Desktop Management Interface.
Other areas of work include security, noise reduction, and advanced power management. These initiatives revolve around the theme of total cost of ownership, an area that Koskela says is splitting the definition of home and business PCs.
One of these technologies that has found its way into the corporate PC has been the ability to send PCs into sleep mode, and then wake them from a remote location. Koskela says this capability to have a PC turned on remotely is attracting attention from corporate buyers. "The reason for PCs to be left on is the manageability. The IT supervisor normally upgrades PCs in the evening, and if they are all shut off there's no way of accessing. It might be a modem call or a LAN call that wakes it up." Unlike some systems, Fujitsu PCs can be woken up regardless of the LAN card they are using. By being able to power down PCs rather than leaving them on, such as by spinning down the hard drive, suspending the monitor and halting the CPU clock, Koskela says Fujitsu is also helping the environment. He said Fujitsu is also working on the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface technology platform, due to come into effect in the next 12 months.
Also receiving a high degree of attention is the field of security. Here Koskela says Fujitsu has a definite edge, in developing systems which are able to recognise if they are disconnected from their power source. By setting the system to refuse boot-up from a new power source, Koskela says Fujitsu has made its systems very difficult to steal.
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Brad Howarth was a guest of Fujitsu at its joint MMX announcement with Intel held in Sweden in November, 1996.