Speed thrills but…

Today, there is virtually a race going on between the frontline chip
vendors–AMD and Intel–to build a better and faster chip. Till yesterday, the
talk used to be in terms of megahertz (MHz). But now, that term has become
obsolete as vendors have started talking in terms of gigahertz (GHz).

Surprisingly, Intel which till recently used to virtually control the
worldwide chip market, has been one of the late starters in this new war of
speed. In fact, it is Intel’s arch rival AMD which has taken the lead in not
only announcing but also commercially producing faster chips–something which
Intel has been unable to match.

But now it seems that the situation is reversing as Intel has just announced
the PIV chip, which performs at an incredible 2 GHz. In the process, it has
managed to squeeze in 42 million transistors on a single chip, up from 28
million transistors contained in PIII.Although it is a big breakthrough, the
fact of the matter remains that this chip is not expected to come into the
market before the middle of next year. However, shipping of the 1.4 MHz version
of the same chip is scheduled to begin next month.

Still, this development means that Intel has resumed its usual leadership
role in the chip performance sweepstakes, which it had handed over to AMD in the
last one-year or so. But rest assured, AMD is certain to follow suit and
according to some reports, is expected to match Intel’s latest announcement
shortly.

As expected, all the hardware vendors are excited about this development, as
they would be able to offer more and more powerful systems to their customers.
But, does anybody ever stop to ask the poor and hapless customer whether he
wants faster and yet more faster machines. Won’t he be able to do his job
equally efficiently with the current speeds? If anybody ever asks this question,
no prizes for guessing what the answer would be.

Rather than going in for more speed, the key lies in reducing the total cost
of ownership. Otherwise the vendors would do well to remember the old
saying–speed thrills but kills. Remember what happened to Digital which despite
having the fastest processor–the various variants of Alpha–available in the
market, could not save itself in the marketplace.

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