IBM Micro gerstnered – gets ideas of reference

Motherboard design in no-memory shock

Two years ago From The Register two years back So to Geneva Airport, a watch, fountain and chocolate-ridden spot, where flight announcements have six musical notes as an intro, to the tune of "How much is that doggie..."* From thence, a five minute walk to the Moevenpick Hotel. Here, The Register presented itself to an IBM Microelectronics reception desk on the ground floor, only to be told that we were not welcome; the hacks' desk was up a flight of steep stairs. The thing was, that IBM Microelectronics was hosting a designers' conference and us mixing with them would be a little, je ne sais quois. We were told that we were to have a one-to-one interview with Dwight Tausz, marketing manager of the group, at 17.20 but as we first of all misheard this as White House and also noticed the press conference started at 17.15, decided to go with the latter rather than the former. (Dwight actually spoke during the press conference about 20 minutes after it started, so it is entirely feasible that we were scheduled to speak to the White House and so missed our opportunity to harangue the US president about chip monopolies.) Bill LaRosa, sales and marketing supremo of IBM Micro Europe, told us Dwight would tell us about the strategy of the group and so it came to pass. He introduced us first to the IBM NC Reference platform, a design containing all manners of good things including a Java virtual machine, a smart card reader, the Power PC 603e processor and Lotus applications and told us the good and somewhat interesting news that both Umax and Cisco said they would use the platform. The configuration on view at the back of the room looked groovy. A map next to it showed it had 4Mb of video memory, several AMD Ethernet controllers, a PCI slot, a CD-ROM interface, plugs for headphones and the like and assorted S3 chips and Asics. No room for your standard DRAM here. The bill of materials, we were informed, will cost around $250 - a snip. Would IBM itself use this NC reference platform, The Register asked? Mr Dr LaRosa seemed to hint in his answer that that was very likely. What place would Daisy (the Java chip IBM is developing) play in this strategy? That topic was off bounds too. When would people like Umax and Cisco start producing designs based on the reference platform? Autumn, the boys said. The NC reference platform is a followup to IBM Micro's set top box design which Thomson Consumer Electronics and Tatung have already said they will adopt. But in the press release, this development kit was described as a state-of-the-art design for Network Station manufacturers. As Mike Lunch, UK general manager of the IBM PC Co had told us at breakfast the same day that it was selling these like hot cakes, so much so that they were sold out, it seems that it is entirely possible Big Blue Corp will use the reference platform too. Did this announcement affect the Somerset JV? No way, said the boys. That agreement was still in place and rolling onwards. A brief discussion about the Cyrix design then followed. Would IBM Microelectronics undercut Cyrix on the 6x86MX chips the same way as it did last year? Mr Dr LaRosa said it wouldn't and never had. The Register was given to understand by its friends at Cyrix last year that this was precisely what happened, so undermining the joint strategy of producing better chips than Intel. It seemed to those listening that Mr Gerstner had planted his famous communicating shoe <BOOT.gif> (The Register, passim) right on top of his IBM Microelectronic's division's respective heads and told them they better get wise and get networkcentric. That, of course, will make the 6x86MX an irrelevance. ® * The tune "How much is that doggie" may be unknown to our international readers but the first lines go, "How much is that doggie in the window, the one with the waggly tail? How much is that doggie in the window, I do hope that doggie's for sale". The song was a British hit in the 1950s.

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