Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's it all about?

     My buddy Ron always calls me up and has thought provoking ideas and observations about the computer industry.  He is a top notch computer repair man, and he fixes the computers where I work.  As a hobby, I like to play around with refurbing (is that a word?) old hardware.  Ron's business and my hobby intersect in interesting ways.  I like to read his Blog, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if he followed a different path.  That's just from my point of view, what he puts down is good.

     Lately, I've been thinking that CPUs aren't changing much compared to back in the day.  Back in the 90's each generation of chip had radically better performance.  Check out this ExtremeTech chart::

 To sum up, CPUs aren't getting any better since about 2004.  Check out the purple line on the graph.  The reason? CPUs are prey to heat.  As the amount of components on a CPU go up, so does the heat.  At some point, the heat is impossible to handle, so that's why Intel went to dual cores and more.  Power, and its side effect heat,  is getting better as chip manufacturers make smaller components.  That's why the smart phone in your pocket lasts all day now, rather than having to be charged in the middle.  (Batteries haven't changed much at all, just consumption)

   The fact that computers aren't getting any better, just smaller, has human effects.  Even though our methods of interacting with computers (like typing, touch screen, mouse, and keyboards)  haven't changed, the fact their performance is roughly the same means the microelectronic market is maturing.

Mature markets work differently than expanding ones.  A mature market is exemplified by an item, like a toaster, that is the same year after year.  Symptoms of a mature market include commoditization where an item sells based on what it is rather than a differentiating characteristic like brand.  We are already seeing this in desktop PC sales, and the vanishing sales of netbooks

The most interesting development is how the world is moving away from the PC for consuming data.  Consumers are adopting phones, and to a lesser extent tablets.  My phone can even scan and print from my stone age networked printer.  My phone has a dual core processor, which seems like overpower, but I like it a lot.  The fact that my phone is always on and always with me fundamentally changes how I interact with technology and the wired world.

Its this change, combined with changes in the PC market that lead me to write this blog. The Wintel duopoly will likely not survive these changes in its current form.  And more importantly, our popular culture will change as well as our relationship with computers.

This blog will synthesize various developments in our cultural changes brought about by stagnating computer ability, and the change to always on devices.