Phil Storrs PC Hardware book

Internet Television and very low cost PC's

We may be on the verge of a very big change in computer hardware in the home. Up until now the only way to get onto the Internet has been to use a Personal Computer (Windows or Apple Mac), connected to a modem and contacting our Internet Service Provider (ISP) via the phone line. With the expansion of Cable Television around Australia the next logical step is to connect to an ISP via the Television Cable. This will make better use of this growing Infrastructure and provide us with a much faster data path between us and the ISP. Telstra's plans for this service are very well advanced via the Fox Tell network and no doubt, Optus is making plans of it's own in this area.

Whether or not we actually get significantly faster Internet access from around the world will depend on how the Internet Infrastructure expands to accommodate the vast numbers of new users, and new technologies requiring vast amounts of band width.

Moves are also a foot to replace the Personal Computer with what are referred to as Internet Television (WebTV) or Settop box. The aim is to produce hardware that will provide Internet access for as low as $500. The Internet Television concepts provide limited functionality and are designed to connect only to the Internet and use a Television Receiver as the Video Display. The push for this technology is from businesses trying to break the Intel/Microsoft strangle hold on the means of accessing the Internet. These include the major brown goods manufacturers.

Another related concept that is on the horizon is that of the Network Personal Computer. The idea behind this is that your Personal Computer has it's basic operating system in ROM and your applications are downloaded when you want to use them from the Internet or Intranet. The computer has no need for a Hard Drive, or CDROM, all we need, even games, will be loaded down from the Net when required. This is harking back to the bad old days of Main Frame computers and "dumb" terminals !.

Network PC is another move to defeat the dominance of Microsoft over PC Operating Systems and Applications. One problem I see with this is that we may well be charged every time we want to use an application, rather than paying for it once when we purchase it. In the language of the Network Personal Computer the PC is referred to as a Fat Client.

The big issue made by the exponents of the Network Personal Computer is "total cost of ownership, pointing out how expensive it is to maintain a network of PC's when it is time to modify or update the applications on each machine for example. Windows NT and later versions of Netware have provided network wide utilities that make this process easy thus removing one of the major arguments for the Network Personal Computer.

One move to keep the PC and Microsofts Operating Systems as the dominant players in this area is the Cyrix MediaGX™ Processor, a Pentium clone device with a high level of other PC functions built into the processor chip. No doubt, Intel will follow with a similar device soon.

MMX™-Enhanced MediaGX™ Processor

The MMX-enhanced MediaGX™ processor represents true system-design innovation and intelligent integration. By merging graphics, audio, memory control and the PCI interface right into the CPU, this revolutionary PC architecture delivers powerful, easy-to-use multimedia technology at an affordable price.

Along with compatible MMX technology, the MediaGX™ processor features MPEG1 support, Microsoft® PC97 compliance for plug-and-play access, integrated game port control, and AC97 audio compliance. And when it comes to games, it’s out in front. The MediaGX™ processor supports not only your Windows® 95 and DOS-based games, but your MMX software as well. And with support for two universal serial bus (USB) ports, a PC with the MediaGX™ processor is ready for the future, able to accommodate the new generation of USB peripherals such as printers, scanners, joysticks, cameras and more.

Compaq is the first Manufacturer to use the MediaGX processor, it is used in the Presario 1220 notebook, and other manufacturers are already making simple System Boards available for the MediaGX processor. Putting this processor into conventional PC hardware defeats the purpose of the concept somewhat as lowest cost execution will only be available in simple mass produced custom hardware, with no room or facilities, for any significant expansion of the device. To make a truly simple system out of it the Operating System must be put on ROM, not loaded from a Hard Drive or CDROM. This is already being done with the Windows CE devices and so will be possible with MediaGX devices also.

Back to the The Pentium and beyond chapter Back to the opening index Book one index

Whats inside the first generation Pentium Processor Time line of Entry Level PC Internal and external speeds of older Pentium type processors Time line of Intel processors

Copyright © Phil. Storr, last updated 26th December 1998