Out with the Old, in With the... Improved
by Alan Zisman (c)
2000. First published
in Canadian Computer Wholesaler, January 2000
If you?re reading this column, I can assume that we
all made it safely
through the dread Y2K New Year?s, and that we can all breath a sigh of
relief, and see what we have to look forward to. Some things I expect
be seeing this year:
-- Computers will continue to get cheaper. Late in
1999, for example,
Intel announced its ?Timna? chip, the company?s latest offering for the
low-priced market. Timna will package a Pentium-class processor, though
optimized using the latest 0.18 micron manufacturing. As well, the
chip will also include a graphics engine and a memory controller,
three core functions in one. This results in smaller motherboards, and
lower overall costs.
Timna?s all-in-one strategy is reminiscent of CPUs
Cyrix. While Cyrix hasn?t been much of a force in the low-end
lately, we may be seeing its return. The company has been purchased by
Taiwan?s VIA, who have also bought up Intel-competitor Centaur. They
announced that they will continue Cyrix?s MII line, enhancing it at
to the 433 MHz equivalent for Pentium-style Socket 7 motherboard
VIA expects to follow that up with processors still
using the MII technology,
but built for the newer Socket 370 standard, with equivalent speeds up
to 566 MHz. As well, they plan to use Centaur?s WinChip technology to
Socket 370 processors with speeds of 500 MHz and up.
So we can expect increasingly powerful computers as
Intel and VIA duke
it out for low-end market share.
-- On the higher (and more profitable) end, CPU speeds
to rise. At the end of 1998, Pentium-II speeds had topped off at 450
By the end of 1999, high-end processor speeds were over 700 MHz, with
from both Intel (P-III) and AMD (Athlon). Both companies will continue
to try to one-up one another throughout the year?assuming AMD can keep
from bleeding to death on red ink.
I wouldn?t be surprised by gigahertz processor speeds
end, with mid-market machines cruising at 700-750 Mhz.
-- Rambus memory-based systems are finally out, as
Intel has released
its much delayed 820 chipset. Despite the hype, initial reactions are
it offers only marginally improved performance over other,
memory models. As with the Intel vs AMD CPU race, but I don?t expect a
clear-cut winner to emerge this year.
-- Expect Intel to release its 64-bit CPU, recently
given the brand
name ?Itanium? replacing the development code-name Merced. (Where do
get these names?) Expect virtually no impact from this oddly-named
this year, especially as its 32-bit performance will be behind that of
high-end 32-bit CPUs. AMD is promising its own, incompatible 64-bit
code-named Sledgehammer, which it claims will be more compatible with
code than Itanium.
-- Expect to see more use of USB to connect printers,
and other relatively low-bandwidth devices to both Macs and PCs. But
expect increased grumpiness with USB as users try to use it for higher
bandwidth devices?network adapters, cable and ADSL modems, speakers,
video and more.
Whether named FireWire (and Apple trademark), the awkward IEEE1394
or High Performance Serial Bus (HPSB), I suspect this higher bandwidth
bus solution will fail to widely catch on with the PC platform, though
it will be built into virtually all Macs. PC manufacturers will,
wait to see what happens with the higher-speed USB-2 spec.
Meanwhile, I?d expect to see the 1984-generation ISA
bus linger on a
bit longer, complete with legacy parallel, serial, and PS/2 ports,
to plague efforts to make the PC platform reliably plug and play.
by this time next year, it will be finally dead and buried?but I
be surprised if the burden of backward compatibility and the
of the PC platform keeps the ISA bus limping on even longer.
-- Expect PC makers to try out more innovative
designs, as they finally
manage to break the stranglehold of the beige tower design, while
copying the iMac look and feel. But expect the bulk of the market to
boring beige boxes. (Come on guys! You can do better!)
-- Microsoft will release Windows 2000 as promised on
but while it will end up on systems destined for the corporate market,
it will have a minimal impact on the home and small business market.
will continue testing its so-called Millennium operating system, its
replacement for Windows 98. Will it be released this year? No bets.
Linux will continue to grow. New releases such as
Corel?s will make
it easier then ever to set up, configure, and use a Linux system. As
judge suggested in the Microsoft judgment, however, Linux will remain a
niche market, with more impact as a server operating system than as a
desktop OS. (And the real geeks will spurn Linux, as ?too commercial?,
looking at something like Free BSD, instead).
Apple will release OS X, confusing its current devoted
user base with
this break with its legacy code and applications, but will manage the
more smoothly than could ever happen on the PC platform. With growth to
close to 10% of the market share, Apple will be back where it was 10
ago?an interesting alternative to mainstream computing, that can
a comfortable and profitable market for companies prepared to be big
in small ponds.
-- Thin clients will be modestly successful in the big
but ASPs, so-called Application Service Providers will fail to catch on
in a big way. The idea of storing applications and data across the
is attractive to many, but it?s too dependent on a still-fragile
to be something that either small or big business can rely on.
-- We will see an increasing number of small
with the Palm OS continuing to steamroll Microsoft?s CE. There will be
more use of wireless connections, both for local area networking
AirPort has a lot of promise), and for accessing information across the
Internet. But both small devices and wireless connections won?t really
become pervasive for another year or more.
All in all, a transistio