On a day where CNET News.com releases a story named "Moore's Law to roll on for another decade," it's refreshing to look at another view.
Michael S. Malone says we should forget Moore's law, not because it isn't true, but mainly because it has become dangerous.
It is a runaway train, roaring down a path to disaster, picking up speed at every turn, and we are now going faster than human beings can endure. If we don't figure out how to get off this train soon, we may destroy an industry.
An extraordinary announcement was made a couple of months ago, one that may mark a turning point in the high-tech story. It may be the single most important news item in the digital world since the implosions of Cisco Systems and Yahoo almost two years ago.
It was a statement by Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. His words were both simple and devastating: when asked how the 64-bit Itanium, the new megaprocessor from Intel and Hewlett-Packard, would affect Google, Mr. Schmidt replied that it wouldn't. Google had no intention of buying the superchip. Rather, he said, the company intends to build its future servers with smaller, cheaper processors.
After all, who really needs twice as more computing power every eighteen months?
Often forgotten is that Moore's law has three variables: price, density, and performance, each of which contributes to the 100 percent improvement the law promises every couple years. But in practice, technology leaders have always stuck with the density track, adding ever more computing power to their products for the same price.
Eric Schmidt is not alone. Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape Communications, agrees with him.
"When I read the Google announcement," he says, "I understood exactly where Mr. Schmidt was going. This is a fundamental, even revolutionary, change in the IT world, and most people don't even realize it yet. It's going to be disastrous for a lot of the big companies out there."
And now, some common sense remarks -- and big numbers.
As Mr. Schmidt points out in his notes, with Intel's research and development costs doubling every 18 months (apparently R&D follows Moore's law as well), in another 20 years the company's R&D costs will be $31 trillion annually. Something must give long, long before then.
But give the last word to Mr. Moore himself, who once said, "Obviously, you can't just keep doubling every couple years. After a while the numbers just become absurd. You'd have the semiconductor industry alone bigger than the entire GDP of the world."
The long article contains many more interesting thoughts.
Source: Michael S. Malone, for Red Herring, February 10, 2003
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