Tim Gaden07 July 2006, 6:12 AM
Owners of new notebooks including the MacBook Pro are getting sick of staring at their empty ExpressCard slots. So what can you fill it with? A new generation of cards are in the final stages of development and are about to hit the market.
MacBook Pro users, along with owners of many other brands of late-model laptop sick of staring at an empty ExpressCard slot, will soon be able to fill it with a new generation of cards in the final stages of developement or about to hit the market.
With no ExpressCard TV tuners yet on sale here, it seems that the most viable use for a high-speed ExpressCard slot in a laptop will be wireless broadband, with all the networks looking at hardware options in anticipation of hardware manufacturers phasing out PCMCIA.
While the new ExpressCard format was hyped at the launch of the MacBook Pro, Apple is not the first manufacturer to use it. A growing number of PC laptops also feature the slot (usually alongside a PCMCIA slot for backward compatibility).
The international standards body, PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association), which is overseeing the introduction of the cards estimates that 70% of the laptops introduced in 2006 will feature ExpressCard slots.
That's good news for Apple users, as it builds the kind of market share manufacturers love.
The first cards are now on the market. The PCMCIA's expresscard.org web site lists 19 products in its database, although not all of them are Mac-compatible.
For example, Firmtek's SeriTek/2SM2-E enables Serial ATA connectivity to external drives at transfer speeds of up to 3Gbit/s.
Most of the action has been in the field of mobile wireless broadband, where Vodafone Australia looks set to jump the gun on other providers. It is ready to release Novatel's ExpressCard modem at a price comparable to its existing PCMCIA modem ($299-399) in late August/early September. (It will release a USB modem at the same time, which will work with MacBooks).
Optus says, "Absolutely, we are looking at ExpressCards as a technology. However, we do not have a specific timeframe just yet."
BigPond's Ashley Baksa says that Telstra won't be offering a EV-DO ExpressCard for its current BigPond Wireless service. Instead, the telco will offer "one for HSDPA 850MHz [Telstra's special frequency 3G] as soon as it's available", probably in 2007. In the meantime, MacBook Pro users "will be provided the option of a USB or card-based solution when the new network is officially launched."
Don't bother looking in the Apple Australia web store, though. There are no ExpressCards listed there and it looks set to stay that way. "We have no agreements with regards to ExpressCards," an Apple spokesperson said.