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October 23, 1988

EXTENDED INDUSTRY STANDARD ARCHITECTURE IS ONLY FOR DEPARTMENTAL BOXES – COMPAQ

By CBR Staff Writer

The decision by the Extended Industry Standard Architecture body, EISA, to release early, if tentative, details of its future 32 bit bus may result in a number of problems the organisation could have well done without – not least criticisms that it has resorted to a level of secrecy usually the preserve of IBM. At a briefing on Friday, Compaq was keen to stress a number of the body’s original ideals; consensus, openness – and freedom of entry to the organisation. However, fears of external copying, and a legal non-disclosure agreement, resulted in Compaq representatives witholding all but the most basic features of the architecture being developed; thus while it it was admitted that EISA was, in fact, largely based on one company’s work, the non disclosure rule meant that AST Research had to remain nameless. Compaq was prepared to reveal that specs for the new bus should be complete by March 1989, with the first EISA-based box out around September. They will be designed for heavy duty input output applications, predominantly at departmental level. Compaq claims that EISA will provide capabilities for future growth of industry standards, and remedy the lack of peripheral support and open systems architecture on Micro Channel which, it maintains, gives few tangible user benefits; EISA buses will also be fully compatible with existing 16-bit expansion boards. Compaq also says that EISA’s design considerations were different from Micro Channel – concentrating on compatibility and functionality, rather than problem detection and compliance with government regulations – and that EISA has addressed the major problem faced by dealers: that of space for expansion boards. Because EISA is predominantly for departmental applications, Compaq does not envisage its existing products such as Deskpro, primarily for single-user applications, being adversely affected by people waiting for the new machines. Mike Swavely, vice president of sales amd marketing, is confident that there is a large enough body of users content to stick with AT-bus applications, despite there being no significant cost difference between AT bus and EISA. The EISA bus won’t confer any benefits on single-user machines, says Compaq, and there are no immediate plans for an upgrade for AT-bus machines.

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