AT present rates of growth more than a billion multimedia-enabled personal computers will be shipped worldwide in the next decade, Intel Corporation president and chief executive Andrew Grove said at Comdex. The prediction bodes well for the future of an already healthy industry, though Mr Grove said there were problems of integration of PC communications and multimedia functions that needed to be addressed immediately for success to be assured. Mr Grove, the last of three Comdex Keynote speakers, said adding multimedia capability to personal computers, and setting machine up to handle different communications protocols was currently too complex and too expensive. He called on the industry to co-operate in designing systems that integrate multimedia and communications functions into the PC motherboard. Such PCs he defined as 'through the looking-glass' machines, as they were the gateway to the digital world. Using the Comdex Keynote as his platform, Mr Grove said the continued proliferation of the personal computer would depend on the co-operation of developers. The integration of multimedia and communications functions on the motherboard would make PCs cheaper, easier to set up, and easier for developers to design applications programs for. 'The motherboard needs to be transformed,' he said. 'We need to achieve built-in multimedia and communications capabilities, and we need to achieve it ahead of the wave of information conduits coming our way. 'We must reduce the cost of purchase, the cost of support, and the cost of applications development - and we must do so before the coming of the information superhighway.' Today's PCs, though extraordinary in their multimedia capabilities compared to those produced just a few years ago, were far too difficult to set up, because multimedia capabilities had been developed largely as an afterthought to the original PC's design. Similarly, communications capabilities were too difficult, with different add-in cards needed for different protocols such as Ethernet, or ISDN (integrated services digital network) or local area networking. With communications driving PC growth in corporate computing markets, and multimedia driving growth in the home, making those functions simpler was imperative for the industry. 'We are entering a time of enormous opportunity in our industry. But it is not without its problems,' Mr Grove said. 'The best personal computers today are inadequate to serve as a looking glass into the digital world. Today's machines can give us a taste of what can be done, but it is a fragile and expensive solution. 'This industry has the opportunity to reach new users by the millions. If we can maintain our current growth rates of new users, in the next decade we have the opportunity to make one billion 'looking-glass' computers. 'That is one billion microprocessors, one billion display systems, one billion hard drives, one billion CD-ROMs and many billions of software applications. 'We have a tremendous future, but we first have to address the platform initiative, starting now.' Growth has generally been driven by the lower priced processing power Mr Grove said. The last time Mr Grove addressed Comdex, in 1991, a high-end 486 computer sold for about US$6,199 at a cost that translated to about $230 per MIPS (million instructions per second) of processing power. At this month's Comdex, Mr Grove made his presentation with the assistance of a Pentium 90 MHz PC which retailed for $2,599, or about $17 per MIP. In corporate environments, Mr Grove said growth was accelerating. At present there were about 70 million users connected to LANs, and he expected another 10 to 15 million additional users to get connected next year. As he did at an Intel forum in Hong Kong earlier this year, Mr Grove devoted considerable attention to the virtues of ISDN, showing Intel's ProShare video-conferencing capabilities using the all-digital network, claiming that the long-hyped (for more than a decade, users have waited for ISDN to produce useful applications) technology had finally come of age. He said about 60 per cent of people in the US had access to ISDN lines on request. The growth of ISDN in Europe had been significant in recent years.