Moore’s Law is Dead
Thursday, February 19, 2009 / PowerMax Culture
Back in 1965, Roger Moore uttered the now famous phrase, “Bond, James Bond.” Oh wait, that’s the wrong Moore. And Roger Moore wasn’t even James Bond until 1973. Okay, it was Gordon Moore of Intel, who most famously observed the trend of computing power doubling every two years, ultimately becoming known as Moore’s Law.
While technology gains are continuing to occur, and research into the atomic level of integrated circuits, as well as into quantum or optical technologies, may well allow Moore’s Law to be the guiding rule for another decade or more, it certainly has become apparent that personal computers are currently not anywhere close to seeing a doubling of speeds every two years. What’s always been true is that the speed of a chip, measured today in Gigahertz (GHz), is only one portion of a computer’s speed, it still has been remarkable to see that these speeds have really leveled out over the past year or two. Part of this phenomenon might be traced to the popularity of laptops, which are much harder to overpower due to size and heat restrictions. But even Apple’s top-of-the-line Mac Pro towers stayed at the same GHz offerings for most of 2008 and into 2009. During that time, the speed increases offered by new models have been negligible, GHz-wise. Apple even “upgraded” one of their MacBooks in 2008 with a slightly slower speed chip than the model it replaced. Clearly, things are leveling out.
Another reason for this may be attributed to the fact that a very large portion of personal computing use is being dedicated to tasks that really don’t need a ton of processing power. Indeed, user input is by far the most time-consuming task involving a computer. And many of those tasks are even being replaced by handheld devices such as the iPhone or netbooks with a fraction of a “traditional” computer’s power. You simply don’t need a Super Computer to write a letter, e-mail, or surf the web.
This is a challenge for computer makers such as Apple, who very much relies on built-in obsolescence to keep computer sales humming. After all, they wouldn’t have tens of billions of dollars in the bank today if no one needed to upgrade their computer for a decade. But soon we’ll see an operating system that will only work on Intel machines, which will create forced obsolescence on those who feel the need to have the latest OS and who have pre-Intel Macs, which will be fueled by apps that only will work on the latest OS. After that, it’s anybody’s guess as to how they’ll build in that money train.
In the meantime, as computers become more ubiquitous and the percentage of fanatical got-to-always-have-the-latest users become a smaller percentage of the overall user base, more and more people will work contentedly on older and older computers. And that’s the irony of Apple’s strategy to build in obsolescence: their computers are made better than just about anyone’s, and last far beyond what Apple might prefer to see in usability. At PowerMax, we sell pre-owned Macs that can sometimes get to be a decade old. But since they’re so well-made, if a user can complete his or her tasks on this far less expensive machine, then why not?
Once in a while, we’re asked if we would ever consider a Windows-based trade in process. The problem with that is the PC market is in a low-priced frenzy, meaning that most of those machines are not built all that well. Consequently, even a two-year-old Windows machine is worth almost nothing. When people are considering Mac or PC, they really ought to consider the trade-in value of the machine when considering cost differences. Obviously you wouldn’t buy a car that would depreciate to almost nothing in two years, while another model might hold 50% or more of it’s value. Even at twice the price, the more expensive car would be a better buy especially if you plan on driving it for more than two years. The same thing goes for computers: Macs just plain hold their value by an order of magnitude over a PC.
So while you need to consider what software you’re running and are going to run, and whether or not it will be supported by the chip set of a particular model, there are plenty of people who will run Macs based on G3, G4 or G5 technology for years to come. And we’re here to support you. Because while built-in obsolescence helps make the world go round (or maybe just adds another few billion to Apple’s war chest), it’s always good to have choice, and a company like ours that supports people no matter what model Mac they’re using. And we’ll continue to offer and support, and take trade-ins, on any Mac that has a worthwhile purpose.
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