A new standard for PC expansion cards is starting to appear in notebooks, bringing far wider bandwidth and standards compliance.
The Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) showed some of the first ExpressCard products, including new notebooks from Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM and Toshiba, at the Cebit today.
ExpressCard is designed as the successor to the PC Card standard for expansion cards, said Manny Pitta, marketing committee chairman for non-profit PCMCIA. It takes advantage of the new PCI Express interconnect technology and the USB 2.0 standard to improve the bandwidth of peripheral features such as television tuners, Bluetooth adapters, or flash memory cards.
PCI Express and USB 2.0 are becoming standard features on new chipsets from Intel, Nvidia, Silicon and Via.
The new modules are smaller than the old PC Cards, at just 34mm wide, compared to 54mm. The first ExpressCards will remain 54mm wide at the end of the card, however, tapering down to 34mm at the plug-in end.
The smaller cards use less power, and are less expensive to manufacture, Pitta said. The PCMCIA envisions a gradual move to the 34mm cards, but some current cards require the extra width for the electronics required to run their applications, Pitta said. Examples of ExpressCard products that require the 54mm width include smart card readers, Compact Flash adapters or even miniature hard drives.
Most of the initial notebooks to feature ExpressCard technology will also come with a PC Card slot, reflecting the enormous number of PC Cards currently in use, Pitta said. Older PC Cards will not fit in ExpressCard slots. The IBM ThinkPad T43 and Toshiba Tecra S2 come with both slots, and were on display at the PCMCIA booth at Cebit.
The PCMCIA is also running a more comprehensive compliance program with the move to ExpressCard technology, hoping to avoid some of the interoperability problems that plagued PC cards, Pitta said.