Exclusive: BIOS will be dead in three years

It's the one major part of the PC that's still reminiscent of the PC's primordial, text-based beginnings, but the familiarly-clunky BIOS could soon be on its deathbed, according to MSI. The motherboard maker says it's now making a big shift towards point and click UEFI systems, and it's all going to kick off at the end of this year.

Speaking to THINQ, a spokesperson for the company in Taiwan who wished to remain anonymous said that "MSI will start to phase in UEFI starting from the end of this year, and we expect it will be widely adopted after three years."

According to the MSI mole, the first new UEFI products will be based on Intel's Sandy Bridge chipset, spanning the whole field from entry-level boards to high-end kit. The company says that it expects the boards to be introduced towards the end of this year, and into early 2011. "We won’t consider UEFI as an expensive premium feature," said the spokesperson, "but as a must-have for everyone!"

MSI plans to start introducing UEFI on its Sandy Bridge motherboards later this year

UEFI (universal extensible firmware interface) is a continuation of Intel's original EFI project, which was designed to replace the BIOS with a user-friendly point-and-click interface, as well as addressing many other troublesome areas of the PC's legacy.

MSI has previously dabbled in UEFI in 2008, when it introduced its Click BIOS on a few motherboards based on Intel's P45 chipsets. However, the move to UEFI is now starting to become much more important because of its implications for storage.

Last month, Seagate revealed to THINQ that a UEFI system would be an essential requirement in order for a PC to boot from a drive larger than 2TB.

MSI revealed its first UEFI Click BIOS system in 2008

MSI's spokesperson described this as a "big factor," explaining that the "default storage size for the general public is getting bigger and bigger." He predicts that "mainstream notebooks will use almost 1TB of storage next year, not to mention desktop systems, so we need to move forward to UEFI fast!"

Implementing a UEFI system isn't an easy job for motherboard manufacturers used to working with standard BIOS technology, though. Our source explained that motherboard manufacturers had held off moving to UEFI because of the "huge resources you have to throw at it."

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With regards to the old BIOS, he points out that there's an attitude of "if it isn’t broken; don’t need to fix it. Unless you have a strong determination to upgrade it, most manufactures will stick to a traditional, easy and familiar old solution."

There are a lot of issues to address here, not least the fact that a standard BIOS can't simply be flashed with a new UEFI system. "A UEFI system is generally bigger than a traditional BIOS," explains the MSI insider, "and most of the onboard ROM is not that big, so you can’t just flash UEFI into a traditional BIOS board."

A UEFI system replaces the text-based BIOS with a user-friendly point and click system

He also points out that "UEFI doesn’t support every board; you have to use certain code with certain motherboards."

Motherboard companies spend a lot of time developing their own features and technology that distinguish their motherboards from those of the competition. If these features are designed to interface with the code in a traditional BIOS, then they may not be able to communicate with a UEFI system.

"The main difference between a traditional BIOS and UEFI is programming," said our source, pointing out that "UEFI is written in C, rather than the assembly code used in a traditional BIOS." However, he points out that this means that there's much more flexibility with the code.

According to MSI, there's still a lot of work to be done on developing UEFI, but the company's spokesperson says that the cost of implementing the final systems should be minor. "We think this is trend for future," he said, adding that UEFI should be a "basic feature for all end-users."