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Compaq, Intel play network cards

The first fruits of the network-focused partnership between the two giants reach the PC market.

The first fruits of the network-focused partnership between Compaq Computer (CPQ) and Intel (INTC) have reached the PC market.

Initial results will allow networks of personal computers and servers from most of the large manufacturers to use a common driver, a software component that allows communications to occur between a processor and peripheral devices, such as a network card.

Compaq released two new networking cards that support its own driver as well as Intel's, which, in turn, accounts for at least a portion of rest of the PCs made by the top ten computer manufacturers. 3Com is the dominant player in the network card market.

The giant of the PC industry and the microprocessor monolith announced plans to cooperate on networking-related product development last fall, as first reported by CNET's NEWS.COM.

The goal of this first effort by the two firms is to reduce the complexity of networking on a client machine, according to executives from both companies. Executives also noted that together they are addressing close to 50 percent of the networking card market in the segments targeted by the two adapters.

Compaq released a networking card that supports both 10-mbps and 100-mbps speeds, as well as a 10 mbps-only card. Both adapters are available now through Compaq.

3Com executives said the move essentially is a reseller arrangement that allows Intel to take advantage of Compaq's brand name. They noted that under a similar arrangement with Compaq, its own networking cards will retain the 3Com brand.

"This announcement does not look like any true collaboration between them," said Jim Jones, director of marketing for Ethernet products at 3Com.

Other areas where Intel and Compaq will roll out jointly developed gear in the first half of this year include PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) HotPlug technology, aggregation of networking ports, load balancing, and gigabit-speed Ethernet.