About a month ago, Bill Gates made a pretty assertive statement about the future of technology hardware. “Ten years out, in terms of actual hardware costs you can almost think of hardware as being free — I’m not saying it will be absolutely free — but in terms of the power of the servers, the power of the network will not be a limiting factor.”
Negligable hardware costs. As I look at new PowerBooks I can tell you for certain, that is not the reality today. But I understand that for a simple internet communication terminal you can call up Dell and get a starter kit for $500 pretty easily. Point taken.
Fast forward to yesterday. Microsoft is expected to recommend that the “average” Longhorn PC feature a dual-core CPU running at 4 to 6GHz; a minimum of 2 gigs of RAM; up to a terabyte of storage; a 1 Gbit, built-in, Ethernet-wired port and an 802.11g wireless link; and a graphics processor that runs three times faster than those on the market today.
Processing power that’s multiples of what’s on the market today? I feel that we might look back on this and laugh at our underestimation of the potential for development. At one point 512K was ALL the RAM you would EVER need. Right. However, something has to drive this investment in the hardware sector. If 90% of the country’s computer users (rough estimate) are going to upgrade to Longhorn whenever it comes out, tech manufacturers are going to deliver the goods. But they will not be free.
Until we can operate our computers as simply as the toaster, it will not cost the same as a toaster. And that’s okay, because I really don’t want to burn my emails.