Computer assembly easy with a one-size-fits-all pl


    Comdex, Las Vegas, November 17

    Trying to set up a computer on Christmas Eve has replaced assembling a bicycle as the nineties-era nightmare before Christmas. The Universal Bus Forum plans to change that with 21 new peripherals arriving for the holiday season. No screwdrivers, adapters, or add-in cards are required to install them. Each has the same one-size-fits-all plug.

    The peripherals are made by major manufacturers like Kodak, Compaq and Microsoft. They include printers, scanners, video cameras, monitors, speakers and other add-ons that make personal computers fun to use, said Steve Whalley, of Intel Corporation and chair of the USB Implementers Forum. They will be sold through major retailers like Best Buy, Computer City, CompUSA, and Office Max. Retailers expect USB to reduce after Christmas return rates, he said.

    Consumers have a hassle-free computer experience on their wish list, said Ross Perry, Imaging Buyer for Computer City. Scanners and digital cameras are two of the hottest peripherals today, but they require many steps to install. In the past, many customers returned scanners because they couldn’t get them to work. USB addresses this because it offers true plug-and-play compatibility. When they plug it in, it works.

    They can hot-swap, which means they can unplug one peripheral and connect another without having to restart the computer. Peripherals don’t have to remain connected unless they are actually being used at the time. Computer City expects to sell more peripherals because customers can be sure they will work. Customers don’t have to worry about running out of connections on the back of their PC because multiple USB products can be “daisy chained” together.

    Video Phones using the USB interface are expected to be a big hit with holiday shoppers this year because they now start at less than 100 dollars, after rebates. They are great way for families to stay in touch, said Whalley. Intel has two USB cameras on the market, the USB Video Phone and the Create and Share Camera Pack. Kodak’s DVC 300 and Connectix Quickcam VC are also available with the USB interface.

    Others USB peripherals include US Robotics 56K modem and Phillips remote controlled keyboard for Web TV. Altec Lansing offers audio products which require no sound cards. The sound is generated in the speakers, producing a higher fidelity compared with the PC environment where audio must compete with noise from electronic circuitry. Music is stereo quality, said Wendy Vittori, General Manager, Connected PC Division of Intel.

    USB monitors offer high-resolution and state-of-the-art displays which offer hubs for adding more USB peripherals. Users can plug items into a convenient location on the monitor rather than plugging them into the back of the computer. There is no need to reboot the system. Sony, Phillips and Samsung are selling monitors with USB in time for the holidays. Compaq has a new 15 inch flat panel display, and the worlds first 21 inch Trinitron display, she said.

    International travel is easier with USB. Because the peripherals can draw power from the system, there is no concern about the power supply. In 1997, about 70 percent of computers sold had the USB ports. Virtually all computers sold in 1998 will include them, she said.

    USB has power management built into it, to minimize the drain on portable products. Some printers and other power-hungry devices can come with a power supply for use when needed, she said.

    “Plug and play has been talked about for a long time. It has taken a while to get all the players lined up so that we could have a standard. With USB, we tried to get a core group of companies to agree. Now that it is done, we can open it up to the larger public. We couldn’t do it on our own. We couldn’t do it with a larger number of companies,” Whalley said.

    Intel is planning in-store promotions and other programs to promote the USB standard, he said. The USB (for universal serial bus) Implementer’s Forum was established in 1995 to encourage adoption of the standard, and make it easier for companies to develop compliant products. For more information, visit the home page at

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