Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The end of Moore’s Law and the future of Dell

I can’t remember when the main feature of a major update was that it was significantly faster on current hardware:

Apple Gives Developers Safari 4 Preview | World of Apple

…Safari 4 currently has very few new features but is significantly quicker compared to Safari 3.1…

I have spent the last twenty years with the near certainty that every new version of a software product would be slower than the previous version on current hardware. [1] This drove hardware sales.

It’s not just Safari. Firefox 3 is faster than Firefox 2. The primary feature of OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) is that it’s faster on existing CPUs and GPUs.

An era has passed without remark. Hardware is getting faster, but the speed comes with power demands, heat production, and programming complexity. The cost of developing software is not falling, so there’s a desire to use common tools and technologies across multiple emerging platforms. That means performance on the lowest common denominator, whether that’s an ultra-cheap laptop [2] or an iPhone.

So if Moore’s Law is going the way of cheap sweet crude, should we expect our current hardware to last much longer than anticipated? What will that do to hardware sales for companies that don’t tie their software to their hardware, or their hardware/software to a recurring services-driven revenue stream?

Bad time to be working for Dell.

[1] Slight exception for OS X 10.1 and 10.2, but there were extenuating circumstances.)

[2] I remember when calculators went from $450 each to free. There’s no fundamental reason the same thing can’t happen to the ultra-cheap laptop.

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