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Intel funnels PC advances into motherboard

Chipmakers are trumpeting design enhancements in chips to be included in Intel's PC motherboard code-named Hannacroix.

LAS VEGAS--A host of chipmakers are hoping to catch a ride on Intel's coattails by being included in designs for a future PC motherboard code-named Hannacroix.

Intel's Hannacroix, on display at the Comdex Fall 2001 trade show this week, is a next-generation motherboard--the slab of circuitry that houses all a computer's main components. It's a vehicle to demonstrate many technologies Intel hopes to see in future PCs, including the faster version 2 of Universal Serial Bus (USB) connections, Serial ATA connections to hard drives, six-speaker audio, and 802.11b and Bluetooth wireless networking.

With Hannacroix, Intel decided to support both USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394a "Firewire," two dueling standards for connecting devices such as digital cameras, MP3 players, network cards and hard disks. USB 2.0 is much faster than the current version of USB, which is best for devices with low data-transfer demands, such as mice or keyboards. Microsoft initially snubbed USB 2.0 in Windows XP but later announced support.

Firewire originally was developed at Apple Computer but is now becoming standard on many Windows PCs. It started out as a fast connection for digital video recorders and similarly demanding tasks, and a faster version called IEEE 1394b is in the works.

USB 1.1 runs at 12.5mbps (megabits per second); USB 2.0 goes to 480mbps; 1394a runs at 400 mbps; and 1394b tops out at 800mbps.

A host of companies announced at Comdex how their chips will be incorporated into Hannacroix:

•&nbspNEC is providing a USB 2.0 controller chip.

•&nbspAgere Systems is providing its IEEE 1394a chip.

•&nbspCirrus Logic is providing a low-cost sound chip that supports six audio channels.

•&nbspMarvell is providing a chip that lets manufacturers splice newer Serial ATA interfaces onto older Parallel ATA electronics.

•&nbspKawasaki LSI will provide a chip that lets manufacturers join a 100mbps Ethernet connection to a USB 2.0 connection.

•&nbspSilicon Wave is providing chips for Bluetooth wireless networking.

•&nbspIntersil provides chips that enable 802.11b "Wi-Fi" wireless networking via a USB 2.0 interface.

•&nbspCypress Semiconductor provides a chip that bridges from USB 2.0 to the ATAPI standard currently used to connect CD and DVD drives.