BIOS will be reportedly going the way of the dinosaur next year.  (Source: Basic Computer Skills)
Microsoft will unleash the PC's latest trick on the world next year, according to reports

The Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) isn't a familiar topic to most casual computers users, but those familiar with its history recognize it as one of the PCs worst examples of burdensome legacy code.  

Back in 1979 the BIOS were cooked up to provide compatibility for IBM clones.  Due to legal issues they had to be designed through a bizarre process -- reverse engineering of IBM's code, and then re-design based on a specification produced by the reverse engineering team (as opposed to simply directly using the reverse-engineered code).

The results worked, but were hardly outstanding examples of firmware engineering.  Today the primary role of BIOS in PCs is to load the Windows operating system's boot loader, in effect starting the OS load process, but modern BIOS retain much of the same ancient legacy code of that original BIOS -- and its many rough edges.  And what was an ungainly code to start, only became worse with time -- BIOS' difficulty in handling new types of hardware like USB peripherals is a key factor in why PCs often take a half minute or more to boot.

But the days of BIOS are about to come to an end, as is their weak performance.  Microsoft reportedly plans to force adoption of a new PC firmware interface called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) in 2011.

Microsoft is rumored to be coming out with the successor to Windows 7 next year, dubbed "Windows.NEXT".  That successor, like the Windows 7/Windows Vista will support UEFI, but it reportedly will go a step farther, scrapping BIOS support and forcing OEMs like HP and Dell to adopt UEFI.

While UEFI is primarily the work of Intel, the world's biggest CPU maker, it is Microsoft which largely controls when UEFI mass deployment will become a reality.  Motherboard makers will also play a key role, by deploying motherboards with flashed support for the new tech.

In a recent interview with 
BBC News, Mark Doran the head of the UEFI forum, the organization tasked with developing and deploying the new firmware technology, comments, "At the moment it can be 25-30 seconds of boot time before you see the first bit of OS sign-on.  With UEFI we’re getting it under a handful of seconds.  In terms of boot speed, we’re not at instant-on yet but it is already a lot better than conventional Bios can manage, and we’re getting closer to that every day."

The extensible nature of this new interface helps ensure that it will be capable of dealing with whatever new PC expansions hardware makers can dream up in the next three decades.

Between enabling faster boot times and paving an easier path for new hardware, UEFI may greatly enhance users' PC experience by doing away with a tired three-decade old interface.  Even if they don't know their BIOS from their kernel, that's something most users should be able to appreciate.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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