Intel and Microsoft to PC makers: kiss ISA goodbye

Intel Corporation and Microsoft Corporation have released their PC98 Design Guide, a set of specifications for computers that PC manufacturers are asked to follow. The specifications define minimum system requirements and ensure that components from different manufacturers will work together. This year's specification calls for at least a 200 MHz Pentium with MMX technology (or equivalent), 256K L2 cache, 32Mb RAM, one USB port, BIOS and hardware support for OnNow, and a feature that prevents a user from incorrectly installing devices and peripherals. The most incredible change: no ISA bus allowed.

Frankly, Intel and Microsoft concede that PC makers won't drop the legacy ISA bus all that quickly, since so many peripherals exist for it and the hardware cost is almost non-existent. ISA, however, offers none of the Plug and Play features and performance of the newer PCI bus. If the legacy ISA bus could be dropped, Intel and Microsoft believe that Plug and Play can advance to new levels with the FireWire and USB serial buses.

A similar proposal for portable computers calls for a Pentium 166 CPU with MMX, 128K L2 cache, a USB port, wireless capabilities, and a docking station that brings the system up to the PC98 spec. The most daring part of the portable PC98 spec is the mandatory inclusion of an Advanced Configuration Power Interface (ACPI)-based battery.

The specifications have been given to hardware manufacturers, who have 30 days to respond and provide feedback. The final version of the PC98 Guidelines is expected in June

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