We live in a very strange technology age. I say very strange because we tend to get excited about new technologies long before they are ready. Then some, like 3D, that were supposed to take over the world, never do (or at least haven’t yet). Others that are so deeply imbedded we’ll call obsolete on a whim; remember that mainframes were declared dead in the 1980s, yet decades later are still one of the most profitable segments in technology.
Currently, we are still living under the “PC is dead” mentality, which is this decade’s craziness, particularly given that you are likely reading this on your PC. The tablets that were the supposed cause of this premature death are actually dying off more quickly. Yet one thing I’ve learned is that once the market has decided something is toast, it virtually never changes its mind. And given that everything eventually dies, eventually the market will be right.
This is a tad surreal for me because these things become self-fulfilling prophecies: Who wants to invest in dead segments? As a result, marketing is pulled back, and much like it would happen if you decided you were dead and stopped eating and drinking, the prophesized result occurs.
So Intel’s 7th generation Core processor just arrived and it is a sharp improvement over the 6th generation. Given that most folks replace their PCs after about five years now, it is a massive improvement over what we had in market five years ago.
Let’s talk not about why you likely need this part, but about why you don’t know you need this part.
The Cloud Has Issues
It is kind of funny that we bounce back and forth between concepts in technology. Initially, computing power was in things like calculators and they sat on the desktop, then we moved to mainframe computers and dumb terminals and everything was centralized. We got tired of having to pray to IT (MIS then) to get things done, and we moved to PCs for much of our work, but that led to a lack of control and scale problems, so we tried to blend concepts in client/server computing, which took a decade to get right. Most recently, we’ve tossed everything to complete strangers who provide cheap though somewhat unreliable and often unsecure services in the cloud.
We somehow got the idea that the problem with terminals and mainframes was that they weren’t portable enough and played with the idea that cloud-connected tablets were the future. When that didn’t work, we failed back to PCs, largely connected to these same cloud services.
The reason was that not only was this tablet/cloud solution relatively unsecure, the hardware itself wasn’t that compelling as a productivity tool, and the most successful offering, surprising Apple in particular, was Microsoft’s Surface tablets. These were basically PCs in tablet clothing, and Apple is trying to counter with an oversized iPad Pro with mixed results. The reason the results are mixed, I think, is because Apple isn’t strong on cloud services and Apple partners Cisco and IBM tend to be light on desktop support. So x86 remains king, at least for now.
7th Generation Processor
While some engineers and professional gamers may replace their high-end machines every year, most of the rest of us are on five-year cycles for laptops and haven’t replaced a desktop computer this decade yet. That means performance advantages should be tied to what we are coming off of, not last year’s products. In general, based on Intel’s specifications for the 7th generation processor, you’ll see a 70 percent jump in productivity apps and a 3.5x jump in graphics over a machine that is five or more years old. And the new hardware and software that comes with this processor will be more resistant to hacking and viruses, have far faster memory and storage, and largely be far more robust than what you currently are using.
One example is that fingerprint readers are vastly improved; mostly gone are the old and painfully inaccurate swipe types, now replaced by the more iPhone-like touch technologies, which are both faster and easier to use.
For those who work with pictures and video, current generation technology allows you to edit far faster, and mid-range to high-end builds allow editing of 4K videos, though 4K displays are still relatively infrequent and remain expensive (they are dropping rapidly in price, though).
You should start seeing new hardware based on this in late September and October, with some really interesting high-end designs showing up toward the end of the year.
It is interesting to note that, unless you are a power user, you’ll typically not notice any change between a 6th and 7th generation part; performance improvements are just below the 20 percent threshold. But over a 5th generation or older, the performance bump is very noticeable. (I’m currently using a 6th generation part.)
Wrapping Up: Upgrades Getting Easier
We used to live for technology updates like this because the applications we had were always limited by the processing power of the machines. As we moved to the cloud, many think this has changed, but because of cloud and network loading, we often still rely heavily on what actually runs on our desktops and laptops.
The bad news is that if you are coming from an old OS, the upgrade process is still pretty ugly, but once you are on a current OS like Windows 10, going forward, it’ll be far simpler. Benefits are less on performance and more on reliability, security, and carrying something that doesn’t look like it came in with the Mayflower.
Once up on your new PC, particularly for those swapping out machines five years old or older, you’ll see a huge difference and you’ll likely wonder why you waited so long. Kind of makes you wonder what you’ll see five years from now. One thing is for sure, in five years, you’ll see a far easier upgrade process.
So you’ll probably not realize you needed a new PC until after you get it into service and, if you are like me, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this earlier.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+