Sorry Guys, The PC Enthusiast Industry is Dead
November 30, 2007 3:03 PM
comment(s) - last by
An introspective, completely unsubstantiated view of the technology enthusiast, in late 2007
More than a few times someone asked me why does
all that global warming stuff
. There's a good answer to that, but its not a simple one.
In 2004 I already saw the writing on the wall. PC technology started commoditizing, and at a brisk clip as well.
When I got my first K6 processor, it was not just the overclockers that cranked up that 66 MHz front-side bus. Anyone who bought a computer had to know some of the essential differences between MMX and 3D-Now!. A lack of knowledge, in those days, would set the up and coming computer user back hundreds of dollars if he wasn't careful.
Whether you agree with Karl Marx or Karl Rove (or anyone in between), a telltale sign of commodification occurs when the manufacturer stops focusing on tangible aspects of the product and starts pushing less tangible selling points. This often occurs when competing products are too similar, or at least indistinguishable from the purchasers point of view.
Where have we seen this before? Well, my HTC Hermes did everything the iPhone did a year beforehand, but
I'm pretty sure Apple sold a whole lot more iPhones
. Look at today's motherboards: any manufacturer would tell you its all-solid capacitors are better than the next guy. And don't even get me started on the memory industry ...
I remember the exact instant when computer hardware became a commodity. Steve Jobs got up in front of one hundred journalists and in less than 60 seconds, a million Apple zealots went from ardent Intel naysayers to hardened Intel devotees. In that moment I realized it didn't really much matter to anyone which CPU was better than another, it only mattered what Steve Jobs told everyone to think anyway.
Other signs of the death of the PC enthusiast are littered across the Internet like the tattered remains of a kite breaking up on rentry. The birth and
demise of AMD's Quadfather
, the ubiquitous lack of support (or interest) for quad-GPU graphics, failed physics processors and inconsequential sales of "killer" network cards.
In a recent conversation with
, both of us agreed that while PC tech has seen some great growth over the last few years, this growth is not keeping pace with the Internet as a whole. PC technology, as a journalistic discipline, is unfortunately niched to the degree you'd find with muscle cars.
This leads me to answer the question I started out with: the PC industry, as a whole, just isn't as fast-moving or interesting anymore. Attempting to debate the merits of largely intangible technology topics is a discussion more akin to politics than science.
You bet I'm excited about CPU-GPU integration and new OLED technology, but another unfathomably high frequency bump in the sea of JEDEC memory timings completely fails to pique my interest. Analysis of Google Keywords would indicate those more mundane markers of progress in the PC industry fail to grasp even the smallest of demographics on the Internet as well.
That does not discount the importance of the tech enthusiast. Those of us who grew up debating the merits of CPU architecture in the 1990's are the pioneers in virtual discussion. We are what the majority of consumers will become over the next decade when new, broader forums come to be.
Don't worry, I'm still the first person in Taiwan with Intel's next-generation roadmap. However, as this industry withers and new ones blossom, I encourage you all as pioneers and enthusiasts to look beyond the chips and bits once in a while.
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RE: Lack of Innovation
12/3/2007 5:30:15 AM
Good point about Vista, and the general lack of excitement about it. I didn't get in line over it. The desktop effects look decent enough, but it makes it feel lethargic, b/c things that were happening instantly in XP, are now animated. Minus this lethargic appearance (there should really be a turbo option on the effects, and smooth transitions all of the time instead of just having the option of slow or no transitions) I doubt that many people will struggle with performance into the future.
In due time, however, people are going to start using the full potential of Windows Media Center. This will have a substancial effect in keeping MS's marketshare through the roof. Sure you could pay $2.00 for a low-res show on iTunes, or just hook up bunny ears to a PC and get the same show in over-the-air-HD... and stream the recording to any laptop in the house, or desktop, or Xbox. Watch out Tivo, watch out iTunes/iPod... Microsoft already done killed you, it's just a matter of time.
I see this as something that will redefine how people view PCs... facing forward they will clearly be more useful for consumer applications than any other platform, including the Mac. Consuming Video, Games, Pictures, etc. Mac is rightly the platform for content creation (and priced accordingly, priced as tools), but Microsoft will more than salvage their platform for the much more common content consumption.
I could not agree more about 64-bit Vista, Vista should have been exclusively 64-bit, end of story. Frankly, I think the fact that 99% of copies of Vista shipping today are 32-bit is a ploy to promote more hardware sales in the future. Basically: Almost every desktop and a few laptops sold today could easily support 4GB-8GB of RAM at the hardware level... but when people are faced with the fact that they have to shell out $100+ on a 64-bit Version of Vista (and reinstall etc. = hassle) they'll likely just buy another $700.00 laptop that comes with 64-bit Vista. Either way MS makes more money.
I think DRM is good (for Microsoft), it may not be built for multiple GPUs but it's built for playing protected content with a market value... and because they've made such an effort to provide DRM, content providers are going to be very interested in releasing content for Vista now and in the future. Watch out Blockbuster... horrible service, $4.49 rentals, inconvenient... XBOX marketplace is neither... and it's only a matter of time before the PC gets this kind of functionality.
I'm pretty sure that Windows 98 was not designed for multiple GPUs and yet SLI was invented on Win 95/98. I really don't see how it's up to Microsoft to fix AMDs driver issues. Aero effects are chump change and definitely don't require much... so I don't see how this applies at all. It's clear that DirectX 6,7,8,9,10 has been and still is able to technically benefit from multiple GPUs. Nvidia GPUs are getting almost an 84% performance benefit from SLI in a lot of games.
RE: Lack of Innovation
12/3/2007 2:13:10 PM
I respect that you can disagree and/or counter my opinions/arguments WITHOUT the use of nor the addition of insulting or degrading language in your posts as so many others do here on DailyTech.
I look forward to reading your posts and having cordial forum discussions with you in the future.
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