The furious pace of computer and software development finally seems to be slowing down. At one point in time computer speed seemed to double every year. Since 2001 however this has not been the case. At that time the fastest chip available was 2.0 Gigahertz. The fastest chip now available is only 3.8 Gigahertz. Although other processing advances have been made, basic CPU chip speed has only increased 90 % in four years.
Advanced servers and high-end computers now often utilize banks of these chips to subdivide processing tasks as apposed to developing a faster master CPU chip. Supercomputers still have much faster processors but these are much larger and more expensive than is reasonable to incorporate in a basic personal computer. Parallel processing is being used here as well.
Since computer speed no longer seems to be increasing quite as dramatically as before, software developers have been forced to work at keeping their programs operating more efficiently. Many newer programs were dreadfully slow on older computers, but that is less and less the case as older computers are slowly being phased out in favour of faster Pentium IV, Celeron or Athlon CPU models.
In recent times it is the options included with a computer that have changed as well as the pricing.
A basic comparison between years:
2001 Computer 2005 Computer
P4 – 1.6 Gigahertz P4 – 3.0 Gigahertz
128 Mb Ram 512 Mb Ram
20 Gigabyte Drive 160 Gigabyte Drive
17” CRT Monitor 17” LCD Flat Panel
$2000.00 $1000.00 or Less
A new version of Windows to ultimately replace Windows XP is expected sometime in 2006. Very little information is yet available about this new version. Even Microsoft that was bringing out new versions about every three years lately, (1995, 1998 & 2001 for Windows XP) has realized that the general public does not want to change systems that frequently. For large companies, changing everyone’s Windows version to the latest and greatest is a major task. In fact, many companies are still employing mixtures of Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows 2000 computers and upgrading only as older computers fail and need to be replaced.
From Microsoft’s standpoint, they make just as much money selling copies of Windows XP as they will selling the next Windows version. So to bring a version to market before it is completely and thoroughly tested would prove counterproductive. As Windows becomes more and more complicated it also takes even more man-years to develop a new hopefully even better version. A thousand man-years of development time is probably a fair estimate of the time spent on this next version.
Similarly, Windows Server versions are likely to stretch out over time. Server 2000 was replaced with Server 2003 and the next major version may hit the market in 2007 or 2008. In either case, rightly or wrongly, Microsoft has won the Operating System and File Server battles and it is unlikely that this will change unless they release an incredibly bad version at some time. This sort of monopoly negates the necessity to release new versions on shorter time frames. Hopefully, it allows them to focus on the shortcomings of their existing versions and improve them without the need of silly marketing features and glitz. What most of the world wants is something that is fast and reliable. Hopefully that is the direction Intel and Microsoft continue to take.