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Tech Savvy for August 28, 2008

What′s Next

by Aaron Harper

    As a techie I frequently get asked, “What′s the next step or latest toy?”  This week, I′m going to make some predictions about what′s coming in the next 1-5 years… we are in for a fun ride.

    Speed.  Processor speeds have remained stable for some time at about five gigahertz.  However, the speed of the system will continue to increase using task delegation.  Industry is developing specialized processors used in parallel which will increase the speed at which the system is capable of processing data.   Products should hit the shelves soon with major improvements during the next 18 months. 

    Power.  The average computer system consumes about 150W doing nothing.  A large computer can pull 750W of power.  From the “less is more” camp we have seen computers that pull around 2-8W of power, though their capabilities were quite limited.  That′s changing.  The Everex gPC2 TC2512 is available at Walmart′s Online store for $199 without a monitor.  It′s quite capable as an office computer and consumes around 35 watts of power. 

    Size.  Have a look at the Apple Macintosh Mini, and you′ll see that small is beautiful.  In addition to efficient, new computers will be only as large as they need to be.  However, since small machines are difficult to work on,  you may have to take the unit to a service center or  the factory for repair, or it  may just be easier to replace the unit. 

    Integration.  We own systems that serve multiple functions, like printers that function as fax/copiers. This trend will continue, though the integration will shift gears.  Rather than focusing on consolidating multiple  boxes, it′ll become a functional approach.  Imagine a unit whose function  is to entertain and inform.  It’s a satellite TV/DVR unit that will play all formats.  It will show a clock on the screen, remind of upcoming  events, and pull traffic data, weather reports, radar, and emergency info mixing live feed with data.

    Solid State.  Moving parts fail long before well-designed electronics.  That′s why there′s a push to use solid state devices for storage.  While using flash instead of hard disks is expensive, prices are dropping.  Cooling fans are prone to failure and will be used less.  Eliminating them will only be possible on highly efficient units.

    Operating Systems.  Microsoft will have to trim back its bloated software or lose a significant portion of market share.  Folks stay with Microsoft because  they perceive a steep learning curve with other software as well as lack of support, and software compatibility issues.  Both Linux and Mac Operating Systems have ways of using each other′s software as well as Microsoft′s.  Professional support is available but less necessary since they′ve become easier to learn.  To stay competitive, Microsoft must create a slimmed down Windows version and do so for under $100.  While Mac OSX will begin to encroach on Microsoft′s dominance, Linux will continue to improve as a desktop operating system, though it will still primarily be used as a server.

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