PCMCIA group releases new ExpressCard standard

PCMCIA group releases new ExpressCard standard

The industry trade group that maintains the standard for PC cards has released the ExpressCard standard, which reduces the size of the expansion cards and removes legacy bus technology.

The PCMCIA announced the standard at the Fall Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, California. Designers are expected to produce the first cards to be tested in early 2004, with most cards for notebooks appearing in the second half of 2004, said Brad Saunders, chairman of the board and technical chair of the PCMCIA, and a staff mobile system architect for Intel.

For the new standard, the PCMCIA switched to a serial bus from the older PCI (peripheral component interconnect) parallel bus used by the CardBus standard, Saunders said.

This allowed the group to reduce the size of cards based on the standard, which encouraged notebook manufacturers to include more than one slot in their designs, he said.

Cards based on the new standard will fall into two categories, based on width. Most designs will use the ExpressCard 34 design, which sets the width of new cards at 34 millimetres. For some applications, such as wide area network (WAN) cards for General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) roaming, the wider ExpressCard 54 standard would be used to produce cards that can handle the higher thermal requirements of those applications, Saunders said.

Current CardBus PC cards are 54mm wide. Most applications don't require a card that large, but the size has endured as a legacy design, Saunders said.

Only applications such as the GPRS roaming card required the extra space for heat to dissipate, he said.

The new standard also eliminated the need for a host bus controller that required its own chip and electronics to work, Saunders said. By using technologies already built into the chipset, such as PCI Express and USB (universal serial bus), the overall cost of including the ExpressCard technology in a notebook was reduced, he said.

Several companies are lined up to support the standard, including Dell, HP, IBM, Lexar Media, Microsoft, SCM Microsystems and Texas Instruments, among others.

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