Experts Predict New Chips to Cause Software Crisis

Loraine Lawson

Today's post isn't so much about an emerging technology as it is an emerging technology problem.


Wired News reports that in the near future, changes in the way computer chips function could mean more complicated software won't run on PCs with the new chips.


Here's how Wired explains the problem: Microprocessors makers are no longer aiming for speed - they're aiming for energy efficiency. To do this, they've borrowed an idea from supercomputers and data centers: Build multi-core microprocessors instead of using a microprocessors.


This, it turns out, is a great way to handle large chunks of data at the same time. It's fabulous for processing large video files and great if you want to play WarCraft while downloading "The Police's Greatest Hits" and burning a copy of the last "Lost" episode - which, by the way, you probably shouldn't be doing anyway.


Here's the catch: Software isn't designed to work on this type of microprocessor. It hasn't become a problem yet because Windows XP and Vista work this way and because some applications - word processing programs and e-mail, for instance - won't need that much processing power. But experts say it could soon be a problem with more complicated applications.


I don't know about you, but this just ticks me off. First, because I just bought a new PC. Second, because I'm beginning to suspect the computer industry spends a fourth of its research budget studying how to create new crises.


Of course, they say the Chinese symbol for crisis also contains the symbol for "opportunity." This, it turns out, is total bunk. What is true, however, is that in market vernacular, crisis contains a new opportunity for profit, and that's exactly what this crisis could mean for savvy software companies, according to Wired. The article also outlines other advances in microprocessing, such as the Intel 80-core research chip that's so complicated, there's not an operating system smart enough to make it work.

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