SAN JOSE–PCI Express will make its formal debut next year, together with yet another new I/O card format for the PC, “NewCard”.
The new standard will serve to bridge the gap between notebooks and desktops, redesigning the aging PC Card in the process, a group of Intel executives told attendees at the Intel Developer Forum here Wednesday.
In just under two years, the PCI Express bus has moved from “Next-Generation I/O” to Arapahoe and to its PCI SIG-endorsed moniker, PCI Express. The way in which PCI Express will be implemented as evolved as well. At previous IDF conferences, attendees presented papers on the “Evo” and “Revo” form factors, with conventional PCI-like “Evo” cards giving way to “Revo” modular card bays, where add-on cards would be stored inside of cartridges.
Now, the two form factors appear to be mixing together, beginning with concept designs such as the next-generation “Marble Falls” desktop design highlighted in Craig Barretts keynote speech that kicked off the IDF show this week. Marble Falls, or a PC like it, is due in 2004.
Likwise, the PCMCIA or PC Card standard has been a common feature in notebook PCs for the past ten years, providing a module about the size of a business card for communications and video input. The roomier desktop PC, however, has favored the more traditional add-in card.
“NewCard” will likely be a combination of the two. Although exact measurements were not provided to the press, the NewCard appears to be a slightly smaller PC Card with a PCI Express interface, using either a x2 or x4 connector. (PCI Express transfers data on serial channels, with one each in each direction in pairs up to 32 wires.)
“By the time we get to a final spec well have a much nicer sexier name for it,” said Graham Kirby, a member of Intels Mobile Products Group. The specification is currently at revision version 0.7, Kirby said.
Intel and other PCI SIG members had a chance to help redesign the PC Card for the PCI Express generation; instead, they retooled the form factor as well, Kirby said.
Even more importantly, NewCard will be a fixture on both desktops and notebooks, Kirby said, breaking the pattern of the PC Card. NewCards will be used for “accelerating media”, Kirby said; a special “double-wide” version will accommodate storage form factors such as 1.8-inch storage cards and CompactFlash media.
NewCard will not be used for graphics, however; a traditional card form factor will be used. However, while PCI and AGP cards were supported by the spacious connector on the bottom of the card, the PCI Express connector is only slightly larger than a business card. PCI Express graphics cards, which will use a x16 connector, will be propped up by the retaining slot, the connector, and a special clip, said Bala Cadambi, the PCI Express initiative manager at Intel.
In 2004, Intel will implement PCI Express in the “Lindenhurst” and “Twin Castle” enterprise chipsets. Executives did not disclose the desktop chipset which will use PCI Express; according to Cadambi, the desktop chipset will be the generation following the “Canterfield” and “Springdale” chipsets due in the middle of the year.