Expansion Cards Getting Makeover

PC expansion cards are about to get a major makeover (giving them, among other things, interoperability with both desktop and mobile systems), and for the first time three major industry work groups are pooling their efforts to make it happen.

The Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) Wednesday announced the development of a new specification codenamed NEWCARD. PCMCIA will collaborate with the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) and Peripheral Component Interconnect-Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG) to develop the new specification, which aims to deliver reduced size, increased speed, lower costs and support of advanced serial I/O technologies like USB 2.0 and PCI Express to the PC Card.

The specification also has the support of industry movers like Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Dell, HP, Lexar Media, SCM Microsystems and Texas Instruments. In addition, the PC Quality/Ease of Use Roundtable, which focuses on reducing end-user issues, will add its guidance to the mix in an effort to smooth human interaction with NEWCARD.

“Innovative applications and technologies continue to be developed at an amazing rate, requiring PC clients to have the latest expansion capabilities,” said Brad Saunders of Intel, chairman of the PCMCIA. “By drawing upon USB 2.0 and PCI Express, the NEWCARD specification will bring serial bus technology to a smaller form factor that offers more performance and improved ease of use. This new specification will revolutionize how PC developers and OEMs utilize the expansion slot for next-generation features such as wireless networking, storage and card readers.”

PCMCIA said NEWCARD will be the first expansion card specification targeted for both mobile and desktop system developers, as well as OEMs seeking small form factors and sealed systems for smaller and thinner mobile system designs. For consumers, the value proposition lies in the fact that the same add-in cards will work on both their desktop and mobile systems.

“NEWCARD addresses the need for a next-generation, high-speed system bus standard and goes far beyond,” said Robert Schneider, CEO of SCM Microsystems. “The availability of both a high-speed, single- and double-wide card enables development of critical new security applications based on smart cards, which are expected to become a key component of digital security. Long-term, NEWCARD form factors can be leveraged beyond notebooks and handhelds onto open desktop systems.”

Other future expansion capabilities which may be enabled by NEWCARD include wireless communications expansions, TV tuners, security card readers and optical storage media.

PCMCIA said the specification is slated for release later in 2003, with products supporting NEWCARD going to market in the second half of 2004.