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New motherboards could cut PC costs

New motherboards could cut PC costs

Members of competing chip camps recently announced new standards meant to make it easier and cheaper to build networking and audio features onto PC motherboards. Hardware manufacturers are most affected, but the result could be cheaper home PCs with more features, configurations, and expansion slots.

New specs are available now for both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices systems. The announcements involve risers, which plug into a motherboard. They hold chips for functions like modems and audio devices.

The two newest specs support network technologies now in demand, such as Ethernet and phone-line networks for home PCs.

On February 7 Intel announced its Communication and Networking Riser, or CNR, Specification. So far, IC makers Cirrus Logic and Motorola have signed on, and Intel will likely unveil more details and supporters during its developer forum, according to a representative.

The same week, the Advanced Communications Riser Special Interest Group, or ACR SIG, introduced its specification along with a founders' list that includes AMD, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, 3Com, Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Via Technologies and others.

"We did invite Intel to become a member when the SIG was formed a couple of months ago, and that invitation was declined," said Cyrus Namazi, ACR SIG chair and AMD's director of business development. Would ACR SIG consider a merger of the specifications? "We're very open to that," Namazi said. "We'd love to work with Intel."

Without standard risers, hardware makers must use several motherboard designs to handle different combinations of audio and network chips. The process drives up costs and limits the number of configurations.

The first products that use the new specs could appear within six months, according to representatives of both ACR and CNR.


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