There has been a lot of hype in the past year about dual-core processors. Now that they have arrived there will be even more.
Dual-core processing is a leap forward. Being able to run two resource-hungry applications in parallel will result in a major performance boost. But not now. Not even this year. In fact, from an integrator's point of view, dual-core processors are as much use as the keys to a Ferrari that has run out of petrol. In the desert.
They are not going to help PC builders rejuvenate flagging demand. The average consumer doesn't know enough about them, and the seasoned IT manager can't see enough return on investment arguments to spend a shrinking IT budget on them.
The desktop PC market is just about hanging on. Growth rates for this year are estimated to be about four to five per cent. This is down a lot on last year because the 2004 desktop market received a massive boost from companies finally chucking out all their creaky old millennium kit and upgrading. That demand is on the wane.
Right now, it's all about sexy little notebooks with their 30 per cent growth rates. The mobile trend is growing, and it's against this wave that desktop dual-core processors are swimming. There will be a huge market for dual-core in the coming years; in fact, most of Intel's and AMD's future revolves around multi-core architectures. The problem is that the cart has arrived before the horse.
Single processors operate by dealing with one data stream - or thread - at a time, switching quickly between them to make it appear that certain applications are running almost simultaneously. Intel's Hyperthreading technology fooled the operating system into thinking that multiple processors were available and speeded up that switching process, increasing multi-tasking performance on PCs.
Dual-core processors are essentially two processors in one package that can run separate applications in parallel. The problem is that most of the world's applications, from office suites and databases to games, have not been designed to exploit the faster speed. Running them on a new dual-core rig will increase performance only minimally.
That is why both Intel and AMD have thousands of developers working with all the big software suppliers to help them redevelop their software. But the applications are not yet there. This in turn means that business demand is non-existent.
Gamers - a powerful buying lobby for new PC technologies - will see little improvement over a top-end single-core processor. It also doesn't help that software giant Oracle will treat dual-core processors as two processors, doubling its licensing fees. It's hardly an incentive for businesses to rush out and flash the cash. Right now, the only markets are in digital imaging and the power/enthusiast arena.
So, if you were asleep and were woken up by the dual-core clamour, just roll over and go back to sleep. You've haven't missed much.
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