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Convergence spec near wrap

Compaq, Intel, and Microsoft are close to finalizing standards that will make it simpler to remove and insert devices such as DVD drives in PCs.

On Monday, Compaq (CPQ), Intel (INTC), and Microsoft (MSFT) are expected to announce that they are close to finalizing a set of common standards that will make it easier for computer users to remove and insert devices such as DVD drives in PCs.

The companies are finalizing what is being called the "Device Bay" specification. Peripherals adhering to the specification such as backup storage devices, DVD drives, and hard disk drives would, in theory, simply plug into a desktop or portable PC connector and automatically configure themselves. This could be done without cumbersome configuration procedures and without restarting the computer, which is often the case with PCs today.

It will be the first time the three companies publicly acknowledge they are working together on the initiative. A final agreement on how the devices will interoperate should be reached by the end of the second quarter, and possibly as soon as mid-April.

The initiative is one of many attempts by the PC-compatible industry to make using computers more like using a stereo system or TV. Compaq and Intel earlier this week said they are working on a "PC Theater" initiative for melding home entertainment and PC products, which is intended to establish "plug-and-play" standards that let audio or video consumer electronics devices and PC-based devices work together.

The Device Bay specification is related to two interconnect technologies--USB (Universal Serial Bus) and FireWire. Both will eliminate the need to install cards into dedicated computer slots and reconfigure a PC when adding peripherals. USB will mainly be used for peripherals such as joysticks, keyboards, and scanners, while the IEEE 1394 FireWire standard is designed for devices which transfer large amounts of data such as digital camcorders.