Computex 2007: UEFI Not On The Horizon

Intel's much vaunted replacement for the legacy BIOS still has a long way to go.

Having had the oppurtunity to sit down for a chat with ASUS’ head of firmware research and development, the subject of Intel’s perennial flopster, UEFI, inevitably cropped up. And, it would seem, that despite Intel’s best efforts to suggest otherwise, UEFI isn’t something we’ll be seeing anytime soon.

If you recall, UEFI (or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) is Intel’s proposed replacement for the ancient BIOS which has been around for over 20 years. Both systems are used to program the firmware that sits between your hardware and the operating system. And, while hardware and software have moved on in leaps and bounds in this time, firmware is still written in ancient assembly language.

With a move to more high level languages (like C++), that are much more reusable and widely understood, UEFI should be a preferable choice for development. However, it seems this isn’t yet the case.

One of the reasons behind this is that the engineers that develop this firmware have worked for years, learning to squeeze every bit of performance out of the hardware, using BIOS, so learning how to get to even the same level of performance using UEFI has, and will, take many years. Also, there is no performance advantage to using UEFI so there’s no marketability to the new firmware, which means companies see little return for putting large teams on its development. Finally, with Vista not yet supporting UEFI, development is near pointless for the consumer market.

So, it’s going to be a long time before we see any sign of UEFI and even longer before consumer level products ship using it. No doubt we’ll be returning to this subject come fall IDF but, from what I heard, you shouldn’t wait with baited breath.

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