Intel Tries to Stabilize Its Motherboards

To achieve this nirvana, Intel must control the hardware and driver stacks.

Unless youre a gamer or loved heathkits as a kid, motherboards are about as interesting as a box of nails. That might even be too exciting for most IT administrators, who have been seeking platform stability since the inception of the PC.

Intel, finally succumbing to demand, has released motherboards it guarantees will remain stable for at least a year. The new boards, based on the 845 chip set, come in several configurations and include integrated graphics, support for a variety of SDRAM configurations, high-end audio and USB 2.0.

The most notable feature, besides stability, is Intels integrated AGP 4X graphics chip set, modestly called Intel Extreme Graphics. This chip sets graphics performance is much better than most corporate users need.

Otherwise, the 845-based motherboards are standard fare. Intel is hoping to bring about a stable technology platform, an encapsulation of several Intel technologies designed to enable IT administrators to pare their system configuration images to a manageable handful.

This isnt as easy as it sounds because even minor tweaks to a configuration usually render the images useless. Intel will ensure that the graphics drivers will not need to be changed, that new network card drivers will not blow away known and approved configurations, and that IT administrators will not have to upgrade any part of the system. Theres only one way to achieve this stable nirvana—Intel must control the hardware and driver stacks. It also has to run a boatload of tests to ensure that the configuration that is delivered will not need to be altered for at least a year.

Corporations have been clamoring for this kind of system stability for years. But heres where Im stumped: It seems that with the continual updates to the software stack, including vulnerability and application updates, organizations will not be able to establish system images, anyway. No matter how much work Intel puts into hardware platform stability, the software platform will always be in disarray.

Incidentally, it appears that Intel has spoofed the hardware platform to fool Microsofts Windows Activation scheme. Component replacements to an 845-based system will not trigger the dreaded Activation in Windows XP.

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