intelligent computing chip
The verge of change
t’s time again to weigh in on some of the huge shifts our world is witnessing.Much to the dismay of pundits everywhere, the PC is not in fact dying. It’schanging shape and perhaps declining in overall importance, but it’s far tooearly to write any obituaries. What is changing, though, is the way in whichtechnology products are being imagined and produced. A huge amount of effort iscurrently being poured into creating devices that aren’t necessarily faster or flashier, butare instead less obtrusive and demanding. Every major CPU maker in the world is nowtalking about lower power consumption rather than higher raw performance, and this is aresult of fundamental, far-reaching changes in the industry that we are only now beginningto understand.Low-power (as opposed to low powered) CPUs will power new kinds of products thatdon’t require huge batteries or noisy fans, run for days at a stretch, and fit into tiny devicesthat can comfortably be held in the hand. These computing devices might not lookanything like today’s PCs or behave like them, but we’ll see the first applications of this kindof component design very soon, in laptops that are less than an inch thick, last all day on asingle battery charge, and don’t cost much more than a laptop costs today. Intel is pushingits definition of Ultrabooks, AMD is concentrating on graphics and battery life, and ARM hassprung up out of relative obscurity simply because it represents an alternative to today’scomputing paradigms that everyone wants to be a part of.Attention is also shifting to the human experience, the most visible evidence of which isthe reimagined Windows 8 experience. It isn’t just about adapting to touch; everythingfrom the dreaded Blue Screen of Death to the ancient boot options screen has beenrethought and simplified. For a company that has historically clung to every last shred ofbackwards compatibility at the cost of future cohesiveness, this is a massive shift inpriorities and shows an incredible willingness to take risks. Techies are finally committing tothe idea of designing for non-techies, and not just in the patronizing, disconnected sort ofway that led to the creation of Microsoft Clippy.At the other extreme of the stack, user-facing applications are being rethought as well.Facbook and Google, two companies whose products users spend a lot of time interfacingwith, are sparing no effort to ensure that people become more and more absorbed bythem. Facebook wants to become the scrapbook of your entire life and theundercurrent to all your social interactions. Anywhere up to 500 million people nowuse the site on any given day, a staggering number by any accounts. Google wantsto take care of every possible human need you might have. We have access to somuch information about each other, and we still haven’t discovered all the waysin which it’s going to change us.The only thing that is absolutely certain now is that tech and technologyproducts are becoming more and more entrenched in our lives. It isn’t enoughjust to use more devices and more digital services; we’re going to have to changea lot of our ideas: privacy, security, individuality and expression, to name a few.The best part about the situation is that while people have been talking about"humanizing" computers for decades now, this is the first time the entireworld seems to be on the same page. It won't be just a single device or asingle service that's almost, but not quite, good enough—what's trulyexciting is that the picture is coming into focus as a whole.