AMD's DTX: A New Era For Small PCs?

AMD is crafting an open-standard specification aimed at driving the development and adoption of small-form-factor (SFF) PCs--a move that could help open up this burgeoning market for the channel, the chipmaker said this month.

SFF PCs--typically the size of a shoebox or a book--are expected to gain popularity in coming years, especially among consumers and small businesses, because of their small footprints and power-saving capabilities.

"Large boxes aren't necessary for most applications now," says Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at IDC. "For the most part, people don't need internal expansion anymore. Everything is external."

By 2010, about 39 million SFF PCs are expected to ship, representing 23 percent growth in the commercial space and 38 percent in the consumer market worldwide, IDC says.

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The development of SFF PCs, though, has been stymied by the high cost of smaller components and nonstandardized motherboards, particularly in the channel, where those costs present bigger obstacles than they do for large OEMs. But that could change with the release of AMD's new spec, O'Donnell says.

AMD is positioning the new standard, dubbed DTX, as an extension of the Advanced Technology eXtended, or ATX, standard. That specification, introduced by Intel in 1995, became the de facto industry standard for motherboard design.

AMD's DTX will leverage existing ATX infrastructure and benefits, including cost efficiency and backward-compatibility, the chipmaker says. DTX-compatible motherboards, for example, will be compatible with an ATX chassis, which could help reduce inventory-management risk for solution providers.

"We think this will do for SFFs what ATX did for mini- towers, in terms of standardization, cost reduction and adoption," says David Schwarzbach, division marketing manager for the desktop division at AMD.

The chipmaker plans to release a review copy of the DTX spec this quarter and launch it officially in June.