Moves are afoot to convince the world's PC assemblers that Intel's processors and Microsoft's operating systems are both now so powerful that they can dispense with 'obsolete' hardware like sound cards and modems. In raw news terms this isn't new -- Microsoft announced this direction at last year's winhec conference. The idea is that your super powerful processor doesn't do very much, unless it's used for playing games. Running Microsoft Office applications barely taxes the CPU at all. As a result there are redundant CPU cycles floating around, begging to be used. Therefore the wags at Intel and Microsoft suggest you run your modem and sound solutions straight off the processor. All that is needed is a header (set of pins) off the motherboard for you to connect your cables and... voila! But why do manufacturers keep insisting on patronising us? Ever since Bill Gates said that 640KB was more than enough memory for anyone we have had initiatives like this which assume that we, the great unwashed could not possibly need such powerful hardware/so much memory/such big hard disks, etc. They are wrong! We want the power -- even if we do not always know what to do with it. Why? Because powerful hardware enables us. We might only play games today but tomorrow there will be an application that requires the power for a serious 'proper' use. Look at the role call of the failed 'patronising' initiatives to take away the power of our computers. There was unified memory for graphics, which 'stole' our system RAM to use for video and allowed dishonourable PC system builders to sell the same RAM twice in its adverts. There was MPACT, which promised all in one sound, video and modem and which was a failed compromise for all three. It does not wash. It seems incredible that at a time when we need faster access to the internet and 3D sound has just become a reality that Intel and Microsoft should be cajoling motherboard vendors to offer assemblers all-in-one soft modem and sound solutions. It will fail. Hardware development is always ahead of the software. So when your Celeron PC with soft modem runs at 56kbps, the market will be moving to ISDN; when your software supports ISDN (doubtful) the market will be moving to ADSL, and so on. The pace of technology development might be too fast for some. It might be driving MIS managers nuts. Accountants might complain of having to write off hardware too fast. But this pace is for the good. It creates markets, enables users and changes our lives. It is also inexorable. Complaining is useless. Roll with it and enjoy it for what it gives... incredible games, better internet access, faster networks. Don't tell me that we aren't more productive than we were ten years ago. That's the fault of the companies that fail to grasp technology and train their people -- not the technology. Bring on the technology and don't patronise us with half hearted initiatives. ®Roy Taylor is joint managing director of VML
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