Print 22 comment(s) - last by goku.. on Jun 19 at 10:27 PM

Intel wants replacing and upgrading notebooks components to be easier

Intel wants to make laptops more accessible to users and would like to make devices more akin to their desktop counterparts. With the company's new Interchangeability Initiative, components including the optical drive, LCD screen, battery, power adapter and keyboard would all be upgradeable and can be swapped between notebooks. Hard drives are already for the most part interchangeable as long as you decide on PATA or SATA.

Intel is currently working with Asus, Compal and Quanta on development of 11 new notebook designs that will use the aforementioned interchangeable components. Intel expects to see the fruits of its labors within the next three to five years.

"When your notebook display cracks on an airplane you are talking about a 10-week waiting period for a spare part. You are without your notebook for too long," said Intel director of American Distribution and Channel Sales and Marketing Steve Dallman.

Given the proprietary nature of notebook computers and the high cost associated with replacing such items as batteries and LCD screens, it's a blessing that a company such as Intel is throwing some weight at creating more standardized configurations for notebook designs. Hopefully other companies will follow.

Now if I could just get a ThinkPad keyboard in an Asus notebook...

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How about...
By DigitalFreak on 3/27/2006 8:02:31 AM , Rating: 2
Interchangable graphics adapters? Yes, you can do it on a couple of notebooks, but how about all of them.

RE: How about...
By ET on 3/27/2006 8:38:27 AM , Rating: 2
Sounds more like a part replacement scheme than an upgrade scheme. So they're not talking about graphics cards, just the physical displays.

It'd be nice to be able to upgrade graphics cards and CPUs.

RE: How about...
By timmiser on 3/28/2006 3:18:33 AM , Rating: 2
A CPU is a pretty simple upgrade for a laptop. Basically, you can put as large a cpu as the laptop's motherboard will accept. With the advent of video upgrades, there really isn't much you can't upgrade except for the MB itself which I don't see that ever happening.

RE: How about...
By spachi12 on 3/27/2006 10:11:31 AM , Rating: 2
Interchangable graphics adapters already exist in the market. The MXM standard proposed and used by NVIDIA is exactly that. Granted due to notebook design there are three different MXM sizes and certain restrictions.

However that being said, Westfale is dead on concerning the issue of heat management for graphics cards. In fact, I think that cooling and notebook design are the two major factors why there aren't more interchangability among notebooks.

And it's my opinion that it's going to be very very tough to create a standard notebook design (akin to mid-tower cases for desktops). Notebook companies have different design aspects and are unlikely to present an unified standard.

RE: How about...
By Thalyn on 3/28/2006 8:25:16 AM , Rating: 2
One of the inherant problems with MXM as a standard is that it's not the only one out there - sure it's fine for NVidia cards, but ATi developed (and quite liked) the idea of it's Axiom interface, which screws the whole thing up as far as inter-upgradability is concearned. With a heavyweight like Intel behind it - who developed (at least in large parts) both the PCIe standard and the physical port which cards plug into - the whole system could be standardised as much as a desktop PC.

Of course, there will also be the manufacturers that don't follow the standards exactly, that produce their own custom models which will, laregely, accept only a limited few accessories. We already have such boutique PCs available in the desktop world - Shuttle's G4, Asus' Pundit, etc, which are still largely customisable as far as PCs go, but suffer some inherrant limitations as a result of their design (try fitting a 7900GTX and a DVT-B card in the same G4, or try power it from the 250w PSU; it just doesn't work).

All the system really needs to do is implement a basic form-factor - let's call it LFF (Laptop Form Factor; why not?). Then you could have full-LFF which allows you to chop and change as you see fit, mini-LFF which limits the use of certain hardware (top-end CPUs and GPUs) as they physically won't fit, and even a pico-LFF which only goes for bare-bones stuff. It does create a marketing problem for the accessory vendors, but if someone is customising their laptop they'd have a pretty good idea what form factor it was, just like today's desktop customisers know if they need AGP or PCIe, DDR or DDR2, etc (and those that don't ask the salesman and hope he or she know what they're talking about). And, before it comes up, upgrading to a larger screen would have to be done at the same time as the chassis - but a standard would allow the remainder of the system to be merely transferred across, making for little more outlay than simply buying a larger LCD screen for a desktop.

Something like this is going to be a little bit hard to visualise in the short-term, but as soon as someone lays down some concrete rules (especially the current market leader for laptops) than things will start to take shape pretty quickly. Go back enough years and the idea of customising a desktop PC (or even the desktop PC itself) was a far-fetched idea, so perhaps this isn't as strange as it might seem.

Definately a long overdue shift in the right direction for the laptop market.


Intel parts upgradable more like
By lemonadesoda on 3/27/2006 9:46:31 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a little more cynical. I don't see Intel as all that bothered about interchangeable parts, UNLESS it can make money of it. I foresee the following:

1./ Patenting of "intel" proprietary connectors (to these interchangeable parts)
2./ User upgradable CPUs and other core components that are available under the intel brand, like internal slots for CPU, co-pro, Wi-fi, bluetooth, flash ram, gigabit network, etc. etc.

Hidden agenda: Laptops LAST TOO LONG... meaning, for example, people are still using their P3 notebooks for email and basic office work. Companies won't invest in a whole new laptop, but WOULD invest a couple hundred EUR on upgrades.

NOTE THAT FOR TAX PURPOSES, upgrades can probablz taken as an expense, rather than an investment, and is therefore a more efficient approach that buying a whole new machine.

By clnee55 on 3/27/2006 6:11:27 PM , Rating: 2
You should write a conspiracy book

RE: Intel parts upgradable more like
By Josett on 3/27/2006 6:50:39 PM , Rating: 2
And, if you add the replacement of magnesium alloy by fiber glass...

Nicynically put! ; )


By JackPack on 3/27/2006 6:59:42 PM , Rating: 2

Next time, smoke that stuff after work.

Think about these: faster time-to-market, economies of scale, reduced development cost, and shorter supply chain.

Certainly, Intel will benefit since less expensive notebooks will likely increase their adoption rate. Intel will probably sell more processors. But once this common platform is in place, nearly everyone will benefit from it.

eh too cpu
By phatboye on 3/27/2006 9:06:20 AM , Rating: 2
Too bad I won't be able to upgrade an Intel CPU to an AMD in these notebooks.

Seriously though I doubt this idea will fly with notebook manufactures. They want you to by a new laptop every time your laptops keyboard breaks. That is how they lock in sales.

RE: eh too cpu
By beemercer on 3/27/2006 3:57:46 PM , Rating: 3
Exactly what i was thinking.

RE: eh too cpu
By dnd728 on 3/27/2006 6:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
And you forgot MS & co. too.

Great Idea, But What About Cost?
By TomZ on 3/27/2006 10:53:41 AM , Rating: 3
I think this is a great idea, but I wonder about the cost. With the cost of laptops continuing to fall, and with how competitive that market is, I doubt there is any room for additional cost due to implementing standard interfaces. I also am not sure whether businesses and consumers would value industry-standard interfaces and pay more. Therefore, I think that Intel will have a good challenge in making this change without adding cost to the product.

RE: Great Idea, But What About Cost?
By masher2 (blog) on 3/27/2006 11:48:55 AM , Rating: 2
Standards typically reduce costs-- not raise them. Not only do you save on design costs, but you can get OEM parts cheaper if they're built to one standard, and not 100 different ones.

The real sticking point here won't be cost, it will be manufacturers worried about lack of product differentiation, and losing their high profit margins on laptop accessories.

RE: Great Idea, But What About Cost?
By TomZ on 3/27/2006 12:43:02 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that in the long-term, standards can reduce cost, but I am more talking about the short term. Short term cost differences are essential to gettting initial acceptance in the market, and getting through to the potential longer term savings.

I assume that current product designs are already highly cost-optimized, and therefore, we would assume that current interfaces are also cost-optimized. Transitioning to industry-standard interfaces might cause a cost increase, if they are not careful. For instance, maybe a particular manufacturer uses a certain connector that they have found works well in their use cases. But an industry-wide design might see a more wide set of use cases, and therefore might require a more robust and expensive connector.

In this example, as NRE is paid for, and volumes build, the new connector that was initially more expensive could become cheaper, but this will take some time.

Must have a standard motherboard form factor
By timmiser on 3/28/2006 12:46:53 PM , Rating: 2
The key to the holy grail of upgrading laptops must start with a standard laptop motherboard form factor. This would fit in any laptop "case". The laptop case would consist of the base and monitor since they need to fold into each other. The laptop case would need to have the memory access door, battery pack, input plugs (USB, KB/Mouse/Etc), optical drive, hard drive bays all in the same place so that they would be interchangable with other cases. There could be more than one form facter to accomodate larger and smaller laptops. This would allow all parts to be interchangable much like we have today with our desktops.


By lemonadesoda on 3/28/2006 5:19:10 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone remember the Compaq Deskpro M series? Standardised backplane, with a CPU card etc.

The system was very attractive due to:
1./ Very robust
2./ At the time, state of the art
3./ Upgradeable

They proved very popular with corporate buyers.

However, the downside was:
1./ Overengineered: larger, heavier more expensive than competition
2./ Due to rate of change in PC world, very quickly got out of date
3./ Upgrades were very expensive due to the fact that large portions of the PC needed to be upgraded. Example: when you upgrade from 386 to 486 to Pentium , you don't pull out the CPU chip and replace it: a whole new processor board is required.

Let's take these lessons forward:
1./ Does it make sense to overengineer a product with a life cycle of just 3/4 years?
2./ We cannot today know what technology will be mainstream in 3 years time and therefore cannot accomodate true future-proofing WITHOUT somehow compromising the future itself. e.g. forcing a format or development path that may otherwise have alternatives.
3./ There is a precarious balance between proprietary individualism vs. grey box standardisation. I know that apple, and sony, and others, would not care for a "our box looks different but the insides are the same" as their USP.

Therefore whatever this standardisation may bring, the true benefit will be for internal OEM parts, and not for user upgradability. It will benefit small suppliers, but I don't see how it will make significant scale economics for the big names. They are already at productivity-scale. They are NOT however efficient with marketing and delivery channels. This is where the "margin" is lost. A few cents on a connector, or many dollars on the marketing/sales channel.

I think this will be a dead end, except for some trivial items, like power bricks, regulators etc.


Since all your parts are changable/upgradeable, then production quality control standards can be relaxed. If the laptop doesnt work... not a problem... just swap out the non-functional part.

Warranty period no longer needs to last a "resonable product lifetime", because the manufacturers can say, well, you should expect to upgrade your laptop every 3 months with the lastest bits, so here you go, this is our 24 hour warranty, it should be enough for you... and it saves you USD100. If there is a problem, you can fix it yourself. If you want a warranty-service, please pay here, extra USD 500.

I dont like this scenario.

By goku on 6/19/2006 10:27:35 PM , Rating: 2
Right, because they have 24hour warranties for desktop computers, oh wait... Just because they [i]could[/i] do something, doesn't mean they will. Warranties and QOS isn't going to go down due to standardization, what you may see and not realize is more low end computer manufacturers coming out with really cheap and possibly crappy laptops, giving the impression that this is happening. If you want a 5 year warranty for a desktop, you can still get one, I highly doubt this will change for notebooks.

By Westfale on 3/27/2006 8:34:43 AM , Rating: 2
i guess the major issue for graphics cards would be heat, in that the cooling system in a low-end laptop would have to be able to handle the much hotter-running high-end parts if the user upgrades.

other than that though, i think this is a nice idea, even if interchangeable LCDs really just means manufacturing efficiencies for big companies like comal, qantas et al, this might still mean lower prices for all :)

This is a good thing
By Aquila76 on 3/27/2006 8:50:46 AM , Rating: 2
This would be a nice step towards DIY laptops. Obviosuly, not every screen/GPU/HDD/etc. combo would work like with a PC, but at least having control over what's in there besides the manufacturer's fancy would be nice.

By redbird242 on 3/27/2006 3:20:20 PM , Rating: 2
Im usually not too big a fan of Intel but this is something I have been really waiting for. I hate buying a monitor and a bunch of stuff associated with a laptop when I dont have to! Awesome!

About time!
By Anemone on 3/27/2006 10:32:31 PM , Rating: 2
The notebook industry has needed this for a long, long time. How many buyers have said "gee I like this model but I wish it had the screen from this one over here". Or "but my laptop is only 1 and a half years old why can't I just bring it up to speed with a few changes rather than throwing it away?"

I have watched laptops junked because of bad optical drives, keyboards that stop working and a host of simple things like this. This isn't even taking in the idea that upgradeable laptops won't become trash somewhere (yes trash, do the math on how many laptops get turned in for recycling as compared to the # of laptops that sold that year). Thank you Intel for seeing both the light and leading the charge. This is much needed. How many people hvae had a motherboard die on a laptop? How many wish it could have just been replaced? Better yet, you see a fancy new feature, say a chipset you'd love to have? What if you could just have someone upgrade the motherboard, maybe throw on a fancy new screen while they are there and you get back what to you is a new machine?

Fact, laptops sell in quantities and are built on scales today that make this something that should be natural to the industry. It would standardize costs and allow the entire industry to scale better and cheaper. It would lower the inventory required on replacement parts needed to cover repairs on old machines. It would increase competition and allow faster turn around times on new technology introductions.

This is a win win for makers, consumers and R&D folks. Faster it gets done, the better off the industry will be.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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