Those slot-in PCI cards could chuck data back and forth to your processor at 10 times the current speeds after a vote agreeing on the next version of PCI, codenamed Arapahoe.

Arapahoe is on its way to becoming an industry standard following a vote on Friday by the PCI Special Interest Group, the industry body that oversees PCI (peripheral component interconnect) bus specifications. Arapahoe will eventually replace current PCI interfaces as products hosting the new technology begin to appear, officials said.

"The specifications are coming out over the next year or so," said Roger Tipley, president of the PCI SIG. "The early chips that would enable [Arapahoe] products should begin showing up in late 2003."

Arapahoe will allow data to move much faster from processors to system level components than current PCI or PCI-X technologies do, delivering better overall performance to PCs and other computing devices. PCI and PCI-X throughputs range from 133MBps (megabytes per second) to 1.1GBps (gigabytes per second). Arapahoe has the potential to run nearly 10 times as fast, according to those familiar with the technology.

"The transport will be different than what PCI is today, [and] the good news is that the software device drivers are compatible with what PCI is today," Tipley said.

The decision to adopt Arapahoe was greeted by "overwhelming support" from the PCI SIG board of directors who cast Friday's vote, Tipley said.

The proposal to go forward with the standardisation of Arapahoe was offered to the PCI SIG less than two weeks ago by the Arapahoe Workgroup, a development group which includes representatives from Intel, Compaq, Dell, IBM and Microsoft.

Intel competitor AMD currently spearheads the development of another next-generation bus architecture called HyperTransport technology, which runs at 12.8GBps, according to AMD.

However AMD, which sits on the PCI SIG board of directors, regards its HyperTransport technology as complementary to PCI, PCI-X and Arapahoe technologies.