Who gets to invent new form factors for the PC industry?

Mortis Angelus

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Jun 22, 2017
279
275
For years, the form factors of the modern PC has been standardized reaching from mITX up to EATX. And with the exception from server motherboards (which are also in a way standardized) and OEM motherboards from e.g. Dell or HP nothing really happens in this space.

Until a few years ago when intel introduced the 5x5" (STX) form factor which has kinda revolutionized the SFF market place with AsRock leading the fight. So STX became a standard.

However, why is not more happening in this space? Please note! I do realize that one issue is the backwards compatibility where mITX is hitting the borderline minimum size to be compatible with ATX attachment layout. But let's say I made a form factor which would be size-wise in-between mITX and Micro-ATX providing more expandability than mITX while being smaller than MicroATX. Just as an example.

Or as I am dreaming up atm, an STX-size motherboard with more expandability and an actual PCI-Ex16 slot that would still be compatible with mITX cases if so desired; how would I go about to bring such a board to the market? Or is it just AMD and Intel that can invent new form factors? I mean, there must also be other, more skilled people with more resources out there that have come up with bright ideas, and yet we see now innovation in this segment.
 

SashaLag

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jun 10, 2018
127
111
good question... Don't know but I think everybody can come up with a new form factor... Like Dell or HP for their desktop product... or VIA!

It's their success or not (plus their licensing model etc), IMHO, that make them universally recognized as a new form factor. For example, Seco made these boards (they have more with that form factor: it's called pico-ITX): SBC-A44-pITX and as you may realize reading here there are even smaller form factors... But they are more common in the embedded world, where other strenghts may be more important than PCIe compatibility...

In the consumer market in the end, it's share and projected sales that may make a company invest in a new form factor, smaller than mini-ITX... With the desktop market shrinking it's difficult to blame them for not investing in a range of new products based on pico-ITX to nano-ITX (for example) form factor. At least for me!
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Mortis Angelus

EdZ

Virtual Realist
Gold Supporter
May 11, 2015
1,578
2,107
Short answer: anyone that can convince the market to adopt it, or already owns enough of the market to de-facto adopt it.

- AT was originally IBM PC AT. IBM clones meant cloning AT, so AT became the 'standard' even if was never intended.
- ATX was a proposed replacement by Intel, that was sufficiently adopted by everyone else to become the new standard.
- BTX was a proposed replacement for ATX by Intel, that was not sufficiently adopted.
- DTX was a proposed replacement for ATX by AMD, that was not sufficiently adopted.
- Mini-ITX was proposed by Via, and was sufficient adopted to become the a standard.
And so on.

In practical terms, any 'new' form factor today either needs to be nominally compatible with an existing form-factor (e.g. ITX could fit onto ATX board mounts,used the ATX backplate cutout, and took ATX power supply connections), or offer some capability novel enough to justify a compatibility break (e.g. mini-STX). Any proposal for "It's not compatible with [existing standard] so you need to buy everything again, but it's only marginally different" has effectively no chance of being adopted.

Or as I am dreaming up atm, an STX-size motherboard with more expandability and an actual PCI-Ex16 slot that would still be compatible with mITX cases if so desired; how would I go about to bring such a board to the market?
In practical terms: have enough money to pay a motherboard manufacturer to design and manufacture your desired board, and to pay at least one case manufacturer to design and manufacture a case for it.
If it turns out to be really popular, then it could become a new standard. If it does not, then it will just be another one of the many, many non-standard form factors littering the landscape (e.g. Shuttle's XPC form-factor, the custom boards used on Zotac's Magnus line, the many proprietary boards used in workstations, etc).
 

jØrd

S̳C̳S̳I̳ ̳f̳o̳r̳ ̳l̳i̳f̳e̳
Digital Seppuku
Moderator
Gold Supporter
Bronze Supporter
LOSIAS
Jul 19, 2015
814
1,345
IIRC a bunch of the more esoteric mobo form factors that tend to see most of their use outside of the consumer sector are registered w/ the IEEE and maybe some others.
 

confusis

John Morrison. Founder and Head writer SFF.N
SFF Workshop
Editorial Staff
Moderator
Jun 19, 2015
3,541
6,094
sff.network
I'll just leave this here..

 

Mortis Angelus

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Jun 22, 2017
279
275
I'll just leave this here..


So you think we should stop innovating and/or trying out new ideas? And not sure I would call any of the standards "competing" as they have vastly different target customers. Albeit personally, I have a hard time swallowing MicroATX
 

Mortis Angelus

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Jun 22, 2017
279
275
  • Like
Reactions: confusis