No Moore’s Law

by Dave Michels

Moore’s Law has provided the IT and telecom industries a good run for over 50 years. Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit roughly doubles every two years. This has created a wonderful game of never ending sales and obsolescence. The Apollo Spacecraft’s on-board computer had 64 bytes of memory (not 64 KB), my current key chain has 2 GB.

While the law appears to be headed for continuation, it appears no longer relevant. The upgrades and upcoming upgrades are more about software and features than hardware. In fact, the software doesn’t need new hardware. What an interesting turn of events.

In the Microsoft world, there are several indicators of No Moore’s Law. Starting with their most anticipated upcoming release of Windows 7. This is the first operating system release from Microsoft that actually has lower hardware requirements than its predecessor (Vista). It is easy to blame it on Vista’s inefficiencies, but Vista is almost 3 years old. So while CPUs have more than doubled their capabilities, actual requirements decreased. For the first time, Microsoft’s new Operating System’s prospects include a huge base of eligible computers going back more than half a decade.

After the operating system comes the applications which are also requiring less from the hardware. The primary application is now the browser, which largely represents a view to computing rather than actual computing. Consider all the hungry applications on the desktop that are being replaced or may soon be replaced with a cloud service; email, CRM, photo editing, etc.

My kids share an XP computer that is now about 7 years old. The computer is no doubt the oldest computer I’ve ever owned; but it isn’t obsolete. It handles all household requirements for productivity and entertainment. Most of its use involves various cloud services, but it has a large number of clients including Office and iTunes.

Additional proof? Consider the success of the Netbook. These simple devices work great for basic networking applications. I’ve started traveling with one, instead of my robust full spec (heavy, expensive, disposable) notebook computer.

Servers are living longer lives too. Most of the server upgrades I am hearing about are around storage. Linux is also making a big difference on the servers. We plan to replace our current voice mail server running on a maxed out dedicated Windows 2003 server with a Linux unified messaging solution. Two additional coterminous applications will also be migrated from separate dedicated servers to this single server.

Hardware is cheap and inconsequential. Microsoft has enjoyed success illustrating this in their Laptop Hunter ads. The Windows laptops purchased for $1500 are much less than similar spec Mac computers. Microsoft will soon be opening retail stores near Apple stores, you know, where the hardware stores (CompUSA, Circuit City, Gateway) used to be. But Microsoft software is only cheap compared to Apple. Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation recently poked fun at Microsoft’s $1500 Laptop Hunter ads by suggesting a $1500 Linux budget could purchase an HP Netbook, Android cell phone, 42″ Flat Screen TV (with Linux), DVR for the TV, a full set of productivity tools (office, IM, photo software), and two One Laptop Per Child computers (one for himself and one for donation).

We are moving away from speeds and feeds to services. Sales will get a lot harder without obsolescence helping things along.