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Standard launched for cheap PCs

The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) has announced a new a standard that may spawn a raft of low-cost PC designs--though the association faces the opposition of two industry giants.

The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) has announced a new standard that may spawn a raft of low-cost PC designs--though the association faces the opposition of two industry giants.

Products and PC designs using the new VESA Unified Memory Architecture (VUMA) standard will emerge in force starting in the second quarter.

VUMA designs cut costs by sharing main memory with VUMA devices such as video cards. In traditional PC designs, a typical configuration would have, for example, 8MB of main memory and 1MB or 2MB of special "dedicated" video memory.

VUMA designs eliminate this extra dedicated memory by allowing the video card to use the computer's main memory.

Despite the cost-saving appeal of this design, both Microsoft and Intel have stated in no uncertain terms that they discourage these types of designs in at least some cases.

Unified memory architecture designs can cause a PC to become unstable in Windows 95 in certain configurations because the designs usurp 1MB or 2MB of precious main memory and thereby force Windows 95 to run with fewer resources.

In an attempt to counter this concern, the VUMA consortium says a "slider bar" will enable users to change the distribution of main memory, allowing the system to have more memory when it needs it.

A number of companies are supporting VUMA, including Phoenix Technologies, Award, Cirrus Logic, Hitachi, S3, and Opti. Cirrus Logic has already announced the availability of a 64-bit GUI accelerator (CL-GD54UM36) for the unified memory architecture, while the other companies are preparing products.