SIPC is an initiative that attempts to establish guidelines for a next-generation consumer PC. Microsoft's SIPC platform proposes software and hardware standards to help the PC become a more convenient and approachable "household appliance."
SIPCs are expected to be "sealed" devices, much like the casings of TVs or VCRs, but designed so that consumers can add peripherals and upgrade components without ever having to open the box. Microsoft says SIPC platforms would include technologies such as OnNow, allowing a PC to be instantly be turned on and off, much like a TV.
Other core SIPC technologies will include components and peripherals based on the IEEE 1394 FireWire specification and Device Bay interfaces. These are the technologies that O.R. will use in its new products.
O.R. offers a glimpse of what's to come in these SIPC-based computers. The company's new "A:drive" LS-120 floppy disk drive provides 80 times the capacity and 5 times the speed of a standard 1.44MB floppy disk drive yet can still read and write 1.44MB formatted data on the older disks.
The IEEE 1394 FireWire standard is a bus--or data path--originally developed by Apple to allow for high-speed transfers of large amounts of data from peripherals such as digital camcorders. In a SIPC system, FireWire will serve as a universal interface for peripherals such as storage drives, CD-ROM drives, printers, and memory expansion cards.
Each FireWire-compliant peripheral would connect to the PC with the Device Bay Interface, which itself is a specification developed jointly by Intel, Compaq, and Microsoft. In theory, each of these devices would simply plug in to the PC and automatically configure itself to work without restarting the computer.
Microsoft is expected to flesh out SIPC specifications at the WinHEC '97 conference in April. At last year's conference, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq showed prototype SIPC consumer systems. Toshiba has also said that it plans to bring out new business computers based on SIPC guidelines later this year.