Fast boot computers already here

Half of PCs have implemented the unified extensible firmware interface standard, but replacement of older standard has been slow due to complexity of collaboration between industry players, says UEFI Forum spokesperson.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Many systems out in the market have already made the transition from the aged Bios (basic input/output system) to the UEFI (unified extensible firmware interface) standard, said a UEFI Forum spokesperson.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, a spokesperson from the UEFI Forum technical support department said 50 percent of PCs out in the market have deployed the UEFI technology--the successor of Bios--that will enable PCs to boot faster.

Bios has been around since 1979, but it is still in its near original form, said the spokesperson. The forum added that it was originally designed as the interface between the firmware and operating system for the original IBM PC-XT and PC-AT computers. While it has expanded over the years, it was never fully modernized.

Built into the motherboard, Bios allows a system's hardware to talk to the software. The program starts when a PC is powered on. It then manages the pre-boot data flow between the operating system and attached devices.

Intel had been talking about replacing Bios since 2003, with the development of the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI). In 2005, the chip company transferred EFI to the UEFI forum, which was charged to promote and manage the new standard. The first UEFI specification for x86-64 architecture was created in 2006, said the spokesperson.

According to the forum's Web site, UEFI does not completely replace Bios but is instead built on top of the traditional interface to supplant its "INT" entry point or even on top of non-Bios implementations. The interface helps hand over the control of the system for the pre-boot environment to the operating system.

"UEFI will provide a clean interface between operating systems and platform firmware at boot time, and will support an architecture-independent mechanism for initializing add-in cards," said the forum.

Change of Bios an industry-wide challenge
The UEFI spokesperson noted that it is "not really too surprising" that Bios is still around. The degree of change and roadmap alignment required for market players to implement a new standard are reasons the legacy program was not replaced sooner, he noted.

Multiple parties need to cooperate before a product with UEFI deployed can come into the market, he said. This will range from Bios vendors which will have to implement the new interface to motherboard makers that have to design products incorporating UEFI.

From there, manufacturing tests will have to be prepared, while operating systems have to be ported, he said, pointing out that add-in card vendors also have to develop option ROMs to suit the new standard.

Implementing the UEFI standard is an "industry-wide intercept challenge", with many companies having a role to play, he said. The forum has more than 160 members consisting of different firms with different business types.

He added that as the forum was set up not too long ago, it has not had much time to see to Bios' replacement. However, he believes significant progress has been made.

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