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Fully Validated, System-Level Design Provides a Low-Cost Means of Bringing Managed PC Products to Market Quickly

Nov 17, 1997

November 17, 1997-- In a move to help original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) bring sub-$1,500 networked PC products to market more quickly, National Semiconductor Corporation® (NYSE:NSM) today unveiled its first fully validated Managed PC reference design. National’s new Managed PC reference design is compliant with the Network PC System Design Guideline co-authored by Compaq, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Intel and Microsoft. Expanding on the original concept, in conjunction with 3Com, National drew on its analog and mixed-signal expertise, adding thin-client “zero-administration” features to provide a fully integrated solution for customers seeking to enter this market. The small form factor Managed PC reference design features CPU independence, allowing it to work with any Socket 7 processor. National is demonstrating the Cyrix 6x86-based Managed PC solution at its Comdex/Fall Booth #L4244.

Managed PCs, NetPCs and another centralized computing option, the Network Computer (NC), are targeted for the corporate desktop environment. These solutions provide a viable way to lower computing budgets and simplify network administration. Estimated sales of these networked computing options are expected to comprise approximately 10 percent of total worldwide PC shipments by the end of 1999.

National’s Chief Executive Officer Brian Halla views the Managed PC as a solid representation of the company’s system-on-a-chip strategy. “Our product development efforts, together with recent technology acquisitions - most notably our merger with Cyrix - are all key pieces of our plan to enable entry level PCs and other Information appliances. This reference design allows us to leverage our expertise by offering a starting point for systems on a chip, together with a roadmap for future implementation of this important technology,” stated Halla.

The Managed PC reference design offers several architectural features targeted at lowering maintenance costs and improving usability. It incorporates a unified FLASH ROM that not only includes the LAN, video and system BIOS, but keyboard and system management firmware as well. The Managed PC allows all of these elements to be updated via the network. Additionally, the Managed PC includes complete system health monitoring with instrumentation for measuring system voltages such as the battery, and the temperatures of the CPU and case. By adopting a Managed PC solution, companies can gain greater control over such parameters as support costs - which can represent approximately 15 percent of the total cost of ownership (TCO) for networked PCs - and the capital costs associated with purchasing many individual components and large PC boards.

“3Com and National’s collaboration on this reference design gives PC OEMs a solution for Net PC development,” said Doug Spreng, executive vice president of 3Com’s Interface Product Group. “This effort builds on 3Com’s networking and systems expertise to deliver Managed PC platforms that lower customers’ cost of network and system ownership.”

Managed PC Features
National’s Managed PC reference design initially addresses the midrange market, and provides a forward integration path for future Managed PC and Internet appliance designs. This small form factor Managed PC has been designed to fit in a 64-square inch board with an overall height of less than one inch. National will supply all the design information necessary for customers to achieve rapid time to market, including schematics, layout, BIOS, drivers, and a complete bill of materials list. Key specifications include 16MB of memory, a 1GB hard drive, and Socket 7 CPU support for the AMD K6, the Cyrix 6x86MX or the Intel Pentium P54/55C.

Components incorporated in National’s midrange Managed PC reference design include: National’s PC87550 Northbridge controller; PC87560 Southbridge system I/O, including two channels of IDE and two USB ports; a PC87570 ACPI-compliant system management chip for system monitoring functions; an LM2688 switching power supply and LM3940 distributed power management device; 3Com’s 10/100 Cyclone media access controller, combined with National’s DP83843 PHYTER™ chip; an S3 V2/DX graphics controller; and an ESS 1868 audio controller.

Price and Availability
The Managed PC Reference Design will be offered free of charge to registered users via National’s Web site at http://www.national.com.

National Semiconductor Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, produces system-on-a-chip silicon solutions for the information highway, based on its leadership in analog and mixed-signal technologies. National is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., and focuses on the communications, personal systems and consumer markets. National has annual sales of approximately $2.5 billion and 12,700 employees worldwide. Additional company and product information is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.national.com.