IBM Unveils Big Plans for PC Micro Channel Design

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International Business Machines Corp. Tuesday revealed ambitious plans for its Micro Channel architecture, its patented design for moving data through its personal computers.

The nation's largest computer maker also announced that it has signed separate agreements with Intel Corp. and Chips & Technologies to develop Micro Channel-designed semiconductors. The deals were seen as efforts to shorten the time it takes to design products for IBM personal computers.

Analysts said the announcements, among the most aggressive yet from IBM on behalf of the Micro Channel design, were intended in part to counter the momentum of a rival design standard that is being pushed by the "Gang of Nine"--a group of competitor PC manufacturers led by Compaq Computer Corp. The rival standard has gained speed and, just recently, Advanced Logic Research Inc. said it will begin shipping the first computer built to that standard next month.

IBM has tried to make Micro Channel into an industry standard, but companies that have used the design under license to IBM have met with limited success. IBM is hoping that Tuesday's announcements will persuade customers that Micro Channel, originally unveiled 18 months ago, is the wave of the future.

In its announcements Tuesday, IBM said it intends to use Micro Channel not only with personal computers, but eventually with high-speed workstations and even mainframe computers. IBM also said that Micro Channel is theoretically capable of transferring data at 160 million bytes per second, eight times as fast as its current speed limit. A byte represents one letter or number.

"They're trying to show a sense of order in a potentially chaotic environment," said Sam Albert, a former IBM executive who is now a consultant in Scarsdale, N.Y.

IBM's rivals say their personal computer standard is better because there are more add-on devices that will work with it. But IBM said there are more than 1,000 add-on devices made by other companies.

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