IBM?s microelectronics division has released details of a network computer (NC) reference platform for a design using Lotus software, a Power PC chip and other IBM technology, allowing third parties to license it.
The first OEMs which have signed up a licensing agreement are Mac clone Umax and networking giant Cisco. They are expected to buy the kit at the cost of $250.
According to Bill La Rosa, European vice president of sales and marketing at IBM?s microelectronics division, the OEMs are likely to customise the IBM microelectronic units to their own taste and specification.
He said: ?The NC division of IBM is a business unit with its own strategies and product roadmap. It wouldn?t surprise me if [rival companies] used it. They use the Power PC architecture which is the future for this platform.?
The reference kit includes a Java virtual machine, smart card support, a Power PC 603e processor and Lotus-based software. The base software is likely to attract some licence fees. But the machine has no Dram apart from video memory on board, making it the first NC which does not use any memory. The Power PC chip in the reference design will run at speeds of 150MHz and 200MHz.
La Rosa said IBM Microelectronics has changed its strategy and will now offer platforms as well as products. The division claimed to have a $7 billion market share, made up of microprocessors, memory and other devices.
The motherboards are populated with a variety of functions, including a PCI slot, a CD-Rom interface, Ethernet capabilities and the usual array of sockets, suggesting that IBM is not aiming solely at the PC market. According to La Rosa, the manufacturer has realised convergence is now possible and isnegotiating with a number of suppliers to include the designs in set-top boxes and other communications devices.
La Rosa added: ?We have evolved from a product-centric division back in 1992 to understanding what our customers want.?
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