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Input Devices Hardware

New I/O Standard Bids To Replace Mini PCI Express 31

Posted by kdawson
from the lame-name dept.
DeviceGuru writes "LinuxDevices reports that a group of companies today unveiled — and demonstrated products based on — a tiny new PCI Express expansion standard. Although it's somewhat larger than the PCI Express Mini Card, the tiny new 43mm x 65mm FeaturePak card's high density 230-pin edgecard connector provides twice the number of PCI Express and USB 2.0 channels to the host computer, plus 100 lines dedicated to general purpose I/O, of which 34 signal pairs are implemented with enhanced isolation for use in applications such as gigabit Ethernet or high-precision analog I/O. While FeaturePaks will certainly be used in all sorts of embedded devices (medical instruments, test equipment, etc.), the tiny cards could also be used for developing configurable consumer devices, for example to add an embedded firewall/router or security processor to laptop or notebook computers, or for modular functionality in TV set-top-boxes and Internet edge devices." The president of Diamond Systems, which invented the new card, said "Following the FeaturePak initiative's initial launch, we intend to turn the FeaturePak specification, trademark, and logo over to a suitable standards organization so it can become an industry-wide, open-architecture, embedded standard" (but to use the logo you have to join the organization).
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New I/O Standard Bids To Replace Mini PCI Express

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  • Good luck with that (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @02:06AM (#31326936)

    I think PCIe is here to stay just because of its use in the desktop market. It is fast becoming the only standard for desktop components (there are now motherboards with no old style PCI). Ok well the benefit to having a laptop standard the same as the desktop standard is obvious. All the chips work the same, you don't need a new chip design or a bridge chip for the different standards. You just put the stuff in a different package and go.

    • by marcansoft (727665) <hector@@@marcansoft...com> on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @02:16AM (#31326986) Homepage

      MXM is the connector used for modern laptop video cards (essentially PCIe x16 + video/monitor out)

      Let's see: FeaturePak uses the same connector, FeaturePak uses PCIe, FeaturePak has a bunch of undefined IO pins. Sounds to me like MXM, except they replace the video-card-specific but mostly standardized video out signals with totally unspecified "put whatever you want here, including power" signals. Great.

      This doesn't look like it's aimed at laptops at all (unlike Mini PCI Express, which is the form factor used for small PCIe modules such as video capture cards and WiFi). This sounds like it's more suited to small form factor embedded platforms for industrial/medical/etc use.

    • by Enleth (947766) <enleth@enleth.com> on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @02:41AM (#31327098) Homepage

      Unless I'm reading wrong, this *is* PCI-Express all right, just a different physical interface with an additional (most likely optional) lane and some new, fancy I/O lines.

      But why USB 2.0? That would be a perfect place to include 3.0, wouldn't it?

      • by unitron (5733) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @04:50AM (#31327556) Homepage Journal

        Unless I'm reading wrong, this *is* PCI-Express all right, just a different physical interface with an additional (most likely optional) lane and some new, fancy I/O lines.

        But why USB 2.0? That would be a perfect place to include 3.0, wouldn't it?

        Well, first they have to sell as many with 2.0 as they can, and then come up with something that needs 3.0 to work right so that everybody has to buy new ones to replace the 2.0 ones so that they can sell twice as many as they would have otherwise.

        And then it's time to change the physical interface on new products so that when you upgrade anything you can't use either the 2.0 or the 3.0 versions and have to start buying new stuff again. Don't you understand how computers really work? : - )

      • There are PCIe lanes on the card anyway so anyone who needs high bandwidth will just use those. The usb is just to make low performance cards cheaper.

        P.S. USB3 isn't really an evoloution of USB2 technically, backwards compatability is achived through the technique of putting two seperate sets of pins on the connector.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Unless I'm reading wrong, this *is* PCI-Express all right, just a different physical interface with an additional (most likely optional) lane and some new, fancy I/O lines.

        But why USB 2.0? That would be a perfect place to include 3.0, wouldn't it?

        Most likely ease of implementation. miniPCIe (and Expresscard) all bright out a x1 PCIe and USB2.0 to the connector. Since this form is likely to be used in embedded devices, USB2.0 is far more common than USB3.0 will be. Mandating USB3.0 means that part won't be i

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Gouru (1568313)

      I think EISA is here to stay just because of its use in the desktop market. It is fast becoming the only standard for desktop components (there are now motherboards with no ISA). Ok, well the benefit of having a compact standard the same as the desktop standard is obvious. All the chips work the same, you don't need a new chip design or a bridge chip for the different standards. You just put the stuff in a different package and go.

      --
      Insert pre-emptive Hitler comment here.

  • Totally useless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultrapenguin (2643) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @02:09AM (#31326950)

    General consumers won't have any use for 100 gpio pins, the fragile 240-pin connector will not last on any kind of multiple-insertions application, and in general, is there even any demand for this kind of stuff? bringing more pci-e lanes = only useful for graphics, anyone who needs more than 1x out of a laptop will be buying a desktop instead.

    • by ranulf (182665)
      More significantly, as these pins are wired to the motherboard, they'll end up being either unused or having a de-facto purpose. My bet is on them being unused.
    • I have always though it would be nice to give a consumer computer with about 4 analog I/O and 10 digital I/O ports for general use. DAQ is a fundamental part of having a computer interact with the outside world and great for kids introduction to automation. It also has the ability to "become" any port you need it to be as long as the frequency of the controller is greater than 2x the bus speed of the port and someone is willing to write the appropriate pin management to make the I/O pins behave like the p

  • by butlerm (3112) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @02:14AM (#31326974)

    This is a new form factor and interface connector for a couple of industry standard buses with a couple of twists thrown in. That is not to say it won't be a minor boon for the people who can make use of such devices, just that this sort of change is sort of thing to be expected out of most market segments every eighteen to thirty six months. Not "hopeless" (that was a joke) but certainly derivative.

  • by Tiersten (58773) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @02:23AM (#31327018)

    They're just saying it may potentially enter the consumer market just for something to say. The fact it has general purpose IO lines on it means it is aimed specifically at the embedded device market like SBCs.

    The connector is physically bigger than the equivalent one in a mini PCI Express system. Manufacturers aren't going to switch to this new interface if it means allocating more space inside their laptop/tablet/netbook. It doesn't add anything extra that would be useful in those situations.

    • by adolf (21054)

      Indeed. Moving GPIO from the adapter to the host sounds a whole lot more like the failed (though very cool) BeBox [wikipedia.org] than anything which will actually generate enough money to be worthwhile.

  • "Twice the number" (Score:5, Informative)

    by marcansoft (727665) <hector@@@marcansoft...com> on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @02:23AM (#31327022) Homepage

    Just found out that "the number" is one: FeaturePak features (no pun...) two PCI-Express lanes and two USB buses (and hosts only have to implement one of each anyway). Color me unimpressed.

  • FeatureCpak (Score:2, Funny)

    by shivamib (1034310)
    <quote>FeaturePak specification, trademark, and logo over to a suitable standards organization so it can become an industry-wide, open-architecture, embedded standard" <b>(but to use the logo you have to join the organization).</b></quote>

    Specifically, the terms and conditions you are asked to agree to in the MOU are:

    1. Recipient acknowledges Diamond Systems Corporation as present owner of the FeaturePak trademark and logo.
    2. Recipient may
  • by Koutarou (38114)

    Anything's going to be better than pcie-mini, given the damage that was done to it by Dell and ASUS using the form factor and connector but systematically violating the pinouts.

  • "The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." -- Andrew Tanenbaum
  • Diamond Systems aim mostly at the embedded market. So I don't really see this coming to the consumer side.

    I use Diamond System products, and they always incorporate some sort of GPIO and ADC on their single board computers. This looks like a way for them introduce more expansion options that will be initially tied to their brand.

    Almost all the industrial/scientific computing suppliers are pushing their own standard form of an expansion bus. CompactPCI and PC104+ are getting pretty old and some vendors are

    • Hi. You are correct, this is primarily intended for the embedded market, enabling us to offer easier configuration of SBCs. However there is a defnite possibility of this being applicable to other markets, including notebooks or desktops, for applications yet to be conceived or widespread. FeaturePak was invented as a way to provide instant configuration of embedded systems with customer-specific features, so that one generic baseboard can be built instead of several fixed configuation ones, reducing the n

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