May 21 saw the annual PCI Special Interest Group’s developer’s conference in San Jose , California . It seems that the move to PCI-E 2.0 is going to happen very soon with a lot of major players showing off PCI-E 2.0 technology at the conference . For the uninitiated PCI-E 2.0 has been in development for some time now and aims to double the interconnect bit rate from 2.5 GT/s to 5 GT/s . It effectively increases the aggregate bandwidth of the 16-lane link to approximately 16 GB/s.
Intel who promised to launch a PCI-E 2.0 motherboard before 2008 rolls in demonstrated unreleased AMD and NVidia graphics chips on its Stoakley chip set for workstations which offers two PCI-E 2.0 ports supporting 16 parallel lanes each. Majors like ARM, LSI, NEC and Synopsys also showed off their PCI-E 2.0 technology at the conference .
Intel is expected to release its first chipsets supporting PCIe 2.0 in the second quarter of 2007 with its ‘Bearlake’ family. AMD will start supporting PCIe 2.0 with its RD700 chipset series and NVIDIA with their MCP72 chipset .The PCI SIG is already working to define a version 3.0 for Express that could appear in products in late 2009. it will probably target 8 or 10 G transfers/second.

So come 2008, get ready to embrace express 2.0 as the new standard , also gear up for faster , high performance graphics cards which eat will eat up 300W of power on the Express 2.0 specification . How fast will the transition happen ? , looking at the merciless move from PCI to AGP and then to PCI express , I would say soon … very soon 🙂

Via Technologies , the Taiwanese manufacturer of Integrated circuits who also happen to be the world’s largest independent manufacturer of motherboard chipsets , have announced the IT industry’s smallest mainboard form factor specification and they call it Pico-ITX , at 10cm x 7.2cm it measures in slightly bigger than a regular playing card , Pico-ITX is currently the smallest complete x86 mainboard in the industry, smaller than all existing ATX, BTX and ITX form factors.
Pico-ATX compared to a card

Designed for the Via range of processors such as the C7 processor , Pico-ITX mainboard form factor will provide system developers and with a standardized, ultra compact and highly integrated platform that can be utilized across multiple embedded PC, system and appliance designs. Some examples where these can be used may be PCs embedded within dashboards or in-flight entertainment systems and industrial automation systems , Integrated multimedia devices and even ultra portable entertainment devices, Pico-ITX can enable the design of full x86 computing devices in form factors which were previously not practical due to size limitations. Though I don’t see the design being utilized to its full potential in the very near future but come 2008 one can expect a lot of movement in the UMPC sector . The reference design specification has the following key components

Processor :VIA C7/VIA Eden V4 bus processor
•NanoBGA2 package up to 1.5GHz
• 128K L1 and 128K L2 cache

Core Logic: VIA VX700 all-in-one system media processor

Main Memory : • 1 DDR2 400/533 So-DIMM socket
• Up to 1GB memory size

Graphics: • Integrated VIA UniChrome™ Pro II 3D/2D AGP graphics with MPEG-2/4 and WMV9 video decoder
• Integrated LVDS and DVI interface • VIP port for video overlay function

Storage (ATA) • UltraDMA 133/100/66/33
• One 44-pin right-angle IDE connector
• One SATA connector

Audio System: VIA VT1708A
• 7.1 channels high definition audio codec
• 7.1 channels audio out and SPDIF in header
• Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro compatible

Ethernet: (LAN) VIA VT6106S
• 10/100Mbps Ethernet Controller