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Are Cheap Laptops a Roadblock for Moore's Law? 335

Posted by Zonk
from the there-will-always-be-gamers dept.
Timothy Harrington writes "Cnet.co.uk wonders if the $100 laptop could spell the end of Moore's Law: 'Moore's law is great for making tech faster, and for making slower, existing tech cheaper, but when consumers realize their personal lust for faster hardware makes almost zero financial sense, and hurts the environment with greater demands for power, will they start to demand cheaper, more efficient 'third-world' computers that are just as effective?" Will ridiculously cheap laptops wean consumers off ridiculously fast components?"
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Are Cheap Laptops a Roadblock for Moore's Law?

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  • I doubt it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nimsoft (858559) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:14PM (#19971887)
    I really don't think this is going to make a huge impact. Companies will always want to sell their latest, greatest hardware, and there will always be plenty of people ready to spend their money on the next best thing, that's how the technology industry works!
    • Re:I doubt it... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nos. (179609) <andrew@theker r s . ca> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:17PM (#19971943) Homepage
      True, but I think something like the $100 computer will have more of an effect in the laptop market as opposed to the desktop market. Generally (and a lot of /. ers are the exception) laptops are bought more for portability than for raw power. Whereas the desktop market has the more serious gamers as well as software developers that want more power. Granted, there are exceptions on both sides, but I would think the laptop market would be affected more by cheap hardware.
      • affected by cheap hardware

        Let's consider the above phrase. There are many opposing forces to Moore's Law if we draw a free-body diagram. Some people don't want better computers as we hear "I just use it for e-mail", as there are those with little time of their own to be ambitious with a computer though they may use fairly powerful software at work. Then, there's competition from the third world, who before couldn't afford anything good may be able to buy a computer that has a built in UPS and wireless netwo
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by steelclash84 (1129221)
      I can see it as possibly a side-computer (internet browsing), but people will never buy a computer for main use that only has 1gb of "hard-drive" space that can only run a custom OS that has no mainstream software available. That's my take on it.
  • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:15PM (#19971901)
    Moore's Law dictates that in 18 months, you should be able to get a significantly more powerful laptop for $100. Even with ridiculously cheap computers out there, there will always be a core that wants power.

    Besides, if cost were the biggest issue in computing, than Linux would be the ubiquitous desktop.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Moore's Law dictates that in 18 months, you should be able to get a significantly more powerful laptop for $100.
      I think TFA's premise is simultaneously correct and ignorant.

      Correct, because the consumer market may shift in that direction.
      Ignorant because TFA completely ignores the business market.

      There will always be businesses who need the fastest, highest powered hardware available.
      • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @02:31PM (#19973209)

        There will always be businesses who need the fastest, highest powered hardware available.
        Actually, I think things can change and have changed. From the late 80s to about 2000, the average computer price remained seemed to remain pretty steady at around $2500. Then, about the time computers got "fast enough" (about 400 MHz), the average selling price of computers plummeted. In addition to average price, people are also upgrading less often now. This shows there is not constant perpetual demand for the latest and greatest. How much more advanced would computers be now if it were still common to drop $700 on the CPU alone? There's no way to know, but certainly more advanced than they are today. Of course we still call the best of whatever is available "high end" by definition, but that doesn't mean it's high end compared to what would now be available if money were still flowing like it did.
    • by MoxFulder (159829) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:51PM (#19972581) Homepage
      Exactly. What a frickin' retarded argument... since when has the low end of computing actually dragged down the high end?

      We may have unprecedented demand for low-power 200 MHz ARM processors these days, but we also have unprecedented demand for quad-core 2 GHz beasts in 1U rack-mount servers, so we can stuff more and more of them into vast underground data centers. Moore's law applies equally to the low end and the high end. Today we can put a powerful computer in a $500 iPhone, maybe tomorrow we can put it in a $50 iWatch. There's absolutely no economic reason for Moore's Law not to continue unabated.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by suv4x4 (956391)
        Exactly. What a frickin' retarded argument...

        Since this is the norm when discussing Moore's "law", I'd rather see one of those mythical non-retarded arguments regarding it. There are none.
    • by Sandbags (964742) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:58PM (#19972703) Journal
      Please quote the law properly: http://foldoc.org/?query=Moore's+Law [foldoc.org]

      It's every 24 months, not 18, and it has nothing to do with power or speed. CPU speed has increased at significantly higher pace than Moore's law. Moore's law views the number of transistor junctions in an IC, nothing more. The size, power consumption, MIPS, and other values have had significantly different curves, most at higher paces than the law, and not in direct comparison to transistor count. CPU power (in watts) over all is relatively the same as where it started in the 80s, and is currently reducing even as Moore's law increases. http://www.eng.tulane.edu/Tef/Slides/Tulane-Moore' s%20Law%20Sept02.ppt [tulane.edu]

      Also, Moore's law clearly states that the number of transistors doubles "as costs remain the same." This means if we can have a $100 laptop today, in 2 years it will still cost $100 (or more accurately the portion of the $100 cost represented by the CPU will be the same), but the CPU will have 2X the number of transistors. It may be faster, maybe not. It may use more or less wattage. This is determined by transistor spacing, impedance layers (SoI, etc), volts, and clock frequency, not Moore's law. The articles premise is simply a logical fallacy.

      One more thing: Moore's law does not apply to EVERY processor, only the leading generation vs. the predecessor. There's no reason to believe the notebook will use the current processor generation, and in fact likely it will not. This has no impact at all on the validity of the law as other processors will exist that follow the law. They may simply decide that instead of the build cost for the notebook being $90 to sell at $100, that they'll use previous generation hardware using more modern manufacturing processes, and reduce the build cost to $60-80, and still likely make it faster or better somehow in the process.

      Were I a betting man, I'd put money on the $100 laptop not only having a faster chip with more transistors, but that it will use less watts, have a higher resolution display, faster or stronger wireless antenna, more storage, and more ports when we look at it in 2 years. Of course, part of the design of the machine, and it's low cost, is the intent of model line longevity. We don't expect to have a new one of these every 2-4 months like the retail PC industry does. Likely, this will be re-engineered at most once per year.
  • by queenb**ch (446380) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:16PM (#19971925) Homepage Journal
    They'll just become faster at the same price OR the software people want to use simply won't operate. Look at Vista...can you imagine trying to run that on a PII or PIII CPU? You'd want to slit your wrists out of sheer boredom due to having to wait on everything to load.

    2 cents,

    QueenB.
  • Business computing needs will always drive bigger / better / faster computer hardware.

    I'm pretty sure Moore's Law will remain intact.
    • Business computing needs will always drive bigger / better / faster computer hardware.

      Business computing means running a word processor and a spreadsheet. Once people realise that what you don't need is Windows, then a PII is fine.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by afidel (530433)
        A spreadsheet is only sufficient if you are a company of 2 people, anything bigger and you need some sort of accounting package. Once you get to a certain size you need tools like SAP/JD Edwards/Peoplesoft etc. You also tend to want good communications so you need to run communications servers, and probably some sort of communications software on the clients, etc. Just because a mom and pop can get along with a slow file server and some workstations running 98 and OpenOffice doesn't mean a large organizatio
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:17PM (#19971941) Journal
    Personally, until encoding video is as fast as encoding audio is now, I for one welcome faster machines.
    • by Wordsmith (183749)
      Well, actually it is, but only for extremely poor video in comparison to extremely high quality audio.

      There will always be a need for faster, more capable machines. We'll want them to do new things, and we'll want them to do old things better. We'll want better-than-HD video uncompressed, delivered instantly, playable by a machine that's busy doing many other complex things at once. We'll want extraordinarily complex data indexing. We'll want lifelike 3D. We'll want artificial intelligence. We'll want compl
  • I was talking with our head of IT the other day. He is a serious gamer who just purchased a $500 USD video card. He buys the latest and greatest video card about twice a year (selling his old one on on ebay) and upgrades his motherboard once every two years. He has no plans to stop doing this. Ever.

    • by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:24PM (#19972091) Homepage Journal

      And we all need suckers like him to buy the latest overpriced, overhyped hardware, so that we can wait a couple of years and buy the next generation for 1/10 the cost.

      The "early adopters" get what they want - which is mostly "I want it now!" , and the rest of us get what we want, which is improved hardware cheaper by waiting a bit.

      Look at the people who paid $500 for a 15" LCD screen with crap specs, when you can now buy a 20" for $150.00.

      Same thing with video cards - they paid $500 for a card with a quarter-gig of ram - those cards are now under $100.00

      Let them keep spending - the benefits trickle down to the rest of us because we're patient.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I know what you are saying. I (very politely) explored that with him. Here was what he had to say to economically justify his gaming life style.

        • a six month old card still has retained much of its resale value
        • a two year old card cannot be sold at all
        • buying a new card every six months and selling the old one has the same economic impact as buying a new card every two years and just throwing away the old one
        • since both options have the same TCO, pick the option with the most features which is to stay curr
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The difference is that if you upgrade your card every 2 years, you still have your old one. If you upgrade all your hardware in the same fashion, you end up with both a new machine AND a backup machine that's 2 years old, and still has a lot of life left in it.

          In the case of video cards, think dual (or more) displays as one use for a second, older card. I'm running dual at the office, and triple at home.

  • by rainmayun (842754) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:18PM (#19971949)
    Moore's Law says nothing about speed. It does say something about the density of transistors on an integrated circuit. How your engineers choose to take advantage of that is up to your business drivers.

    Here's a thought - maybe those $100 laptops become cheaper, or more capable over time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by edittard (805475)

      Moore's Law says nothing about speed.
      ... and even if it did, it isn't what makes it increase as TFS implies.
    • by metlin (258108)

      Here's a thought - maybe those $100 laptops become cheaper, or more capable over time.
      Or both.
  • by Sciros (986030)
    Since Vista requires the kind of hardware it does to run *well*, since games are looking better and better every year with Gamebryo, UE3, and so forth, and since the tech industry as a whole still appreciates faster workstations, more memory, etc., there's more than enough of a demand for increasing hardware performance. I don't see that demand going away any time soon.

    Honestly, email and web browsing never required much past computers from, say, 1995. Is everyone using 12-year-old computers? No.
  • by Eco-Mono (978899) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:18PM (#19971963) Homepage
    Now, I'm not so sure that the writer of the article actually knows what Moore's Law is. It doesn't have to do with CPU speed; it has to do with how many transistors we can cram onto a silicon wafer. And as that compression increases, the same amount of CPU power gets smaller and more energy-efficient.
    In other words, we aren't looking at the "end of Moore's Law"... we're looking at that progression being put to use in the way the market wants - that is, making computers cheaper and smaller, since they're already as fast as we need them to be.
  • by R2.0 (532027)
    The summary states:" 'Moore's law is great for making tech faster, and for making slower, existing tech cheaper,"

    And then asks: but when consumers realize their personal lust for faster hardware makes almost zero financial sense, and hurts the environment with greater demands for power, will they start to demand cheaper, more efficient 'third-world' computers that are just as effective?"

    So Moore's law is good for going smaller/faster/cheaper, but the demand for s/f/c will spell the end of Moore's law?
    • by dhasenan (758719)
      You can favor any one of [smaller, faster, cheaper] in a given chip. The current trend is to go faster for most PCs and laptops.

      I'd prefer going cheaper. The resulting processors would probably stay cooler, too.
    • by Chyeld (713439)

      There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. (Lt.) Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't wa

  • No (Score:5, Informative)

    by An Ominous Coward (13324) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:19PM (#19971977)
    Given that Moore's Law is that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 months, no. Even if the gigahertz / number of cores war stops for laptops, there's lots of components that can be put on chip. But apparently it's too much to ask from a rag like CNet to get their basic definitions correct.
  • More strength (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:19PM (#19971989) Journal
    With OLPC, there will be more computers out there than ever before. Many of these laptops will be used to create wealth, some of which will be used to buy "normal" laptops that are faster. This, in turn, will push the upper end of chip development towards faster and cheaper.

    Put another way: There are BAZILLIONS of cheap, ARM-based CPUs out there running everything from microwaves to kiddie toys. Have they put an end to Moore's law?

    What actually MIGHT put an end to Moore's law is the actual quantum limits to computation. And we *will* hit those limits if we don't blow ourselves up first. But that's a ways off, and we may find some way past those limits as well. (EG: using other, N-dimensional space or something exotic that we can't even imagine yet)

    • What actually MIGHT put an end to Moore's law is the actual quantum limits to computation.

      At which point, as things are looking, should kick in right about the time quantum computing becomes feasable, and a whole new 50-year cycle of Moore's Law kicks in.
  • by Chairboy (88841) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:20PM (#19971993) Homepage
    It's not a LAW-law, it was a prediction. It was an observation coupled with smart insight into the nature of the semi-conductor business, and deviations aren't news, the fact that his prediction has so consistently worked over the past decades is the real story.

    Will it hold up forever? Probably not, it could speed up or slow down by an order of magnitude as semi-conductor technology is replaced by The Next Big Thing (Optics? Quantum? Duotronics?), and our measurement criteria might have to change with it.

    So again, the real story is that Moore's observation has held up so spectacularly so long. Lulls in performance increases are natural. But how does it plot over time?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)
      You DO realize that all scientific 'laws' are just observations turned into a hypothesis that have withstood the test of time?

      From dictionary.com: "A statement describing a relationship observed to be invariable between or among phenomena for all cases in which the specified conditions are met: the law of gravity."

      The law of gravity has never yet been broken, but that doesn't mean it won't be. It's the same for Moore's Law.

      While I'm sure it was called a 'law' initially as a jest (ala Murphy's law) it has
      • The law of gravity has never yet been broken, but that doesn't mean it won't be. It's the same for Moore's Law.
        I really have nothing to say other than "bollocks".
  • Directly proportional to silicon usage.

    Need to get the low energy magnetic memory spintronic processing train moving.

    Or photonics.

     
  • External pressures (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fantomas (94850) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:20PM (#19972001)
    People may want to buy more ecologically sound, low powered, cheaper machines, but they are subject to external pressures.

    Apart from the small percentage of hackers/enthusiasts who play with computers because they like computers, the majority of people use computers to achieve goals - be it to write their work documents, play games, edit photos etc. They will buy the machines that can run the software to do these jobs.

    I can't see the big software players reducing the power requirements of their software as it upgrades. Microsoft Office 2015, Photoshop v.27, and World of Warcraft 2015 are going to need more rather than less power and people will be forced to buy more powerful machines.
    • "Microsoft Office 2015"

      Do you really believe such a product will even exist? Or that it will do all that much more than Office 97? Software is hitting the same barriers as hardware - a lot of older software is "good enough", just as a lot of open/free software is "good enough." A lot of what were software monopolies are being encroached upon by "good enough", same as hardware.

      Vendor lock-in is deteriorating - look at the resistance to 00XML (Microsoft's proprietary format) as opposed to ODF. The browse

  • Cheap laptops (Score:2, Informative)

    by backslashdot (95548)
    Fact is.. people are installing Vista on laptops that really shouldn't be running them..

    People use their cheap underpowered laptop, get frustrated ..curse Dell and Microsoft. And then go to a nicely performing (but more expensive) Mac.

    If laptop makers didn't tempt consumers with their underpowered crap, maybe they would have a decent reputation. I don't see how Moore's law is affected.

    Apple is the only computer manufacturer whose low end PC's actually perform tolerably.
    • The problem I am sure we all get for having the reputation as Computer Guys people ask us what type of computer should they get. So we tell them, then they will not listen to our advice and get the el-cheapo Celeron, with 4800 RPM Drives, 64 Meg Video but with the 30" Screens. Then we get blamed for not being persuavive enough to make them from choosing a crapy sysem. The problem with Computers is because they are for most people a major purchase so they normally are afraid of the models that cost more th
    • by GeckoX (259575)

      Apple is the only computer manufacturer whose low end PC's actually perform tolerably.


      Holy flamebait batman!

      Sure, when you compare bottom of the pile apple gear to bottom of the pile pc gear, you're right, except you'd BETTER be right at the price difference for that comparison!!!

      Try comparing apples and apples next time. Apple gear is expensive when comparing like hardware.
  • Maybe Ask Yahoo is a better place for this kind of question?
  • So presently, laptops are getting radically cheaper. But these laptops are simply using old components (VIAs, Durons and Celerons??!!??) and building a portable that barely keeps up and is horribly outdated.

    Given that as of now, I can configure a fairly decent desktop (comparable to a sub-$800 laptop) for under $400 (including a monitor), the craze for cheap laptops might mean a resurgence in desktops for all we know.

    And you can never count out the masses who spend $2000 + on their up-to-date PCs (whether i
  • Troll? Here are a few good counter arguments to the post: (I'm sure you all can think of more.)
    1. High performance server/business hardware will still be in demand.
    2. Modern operating systems with all the bells and whistles that we're used to will need expensive hardware to run.
    3. The trend is for home users to play video and audio which you just can't do (well) on a $100 computer.
  • Of course not. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:22PM (#19972043) Homepage Journal

    Moore's law is about transistors per area and cost per transistor. Cheap laptops have nothing to do with that.

    But for the question that was *meant*, rather than what was asked... still no. There are some applications that can use basically unlimited computing power (and now, unlimited computing power with minimal electrical power), and everyone else benefits from developments geared towards those areas.

  • Machrone's Law (Score:3, Informative)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:22PM (#19972059) Homepage
    Moore's Law as it applies to PCs has its own "law": Machrone's Law [ieee.org]. It's not as strong a "law" as Moore's as it has had to undergo continual adjustment, but there is a definite phenomenon. Also related is the amusing Wirth's Law, also described in that IEEE Spectrum online blurb.
  • I doubt it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _xeno_ (155264) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:23PM (#19972069) Homepage Journal

    My cellphone is now more powerful than the first computer I used. It supports up to 1GB of removable storage in about the smallest form factor I've ever seen (micro SD). It's built-in camera is as good as the first digital camera that I owned.

    In other words, yes, people may start demanding smaller and more powerful devices - but so what? It just means that instead of speed doubling, power use might start decreasing, storage density might increase, who knows what. We're using computers for purposes I never would have dreamed of when ten years ago. I have a computer under my TV that records shows - I never saw that coming until it did.

    Computers will continue to evolve. The laptop and desktop might start to fade out, but new devices will take their place.

  • Jeesh (Score:3, Informative)

    by I'll Provide The War (1045190) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:24PM (#19972107)
    "Moore's Law" has nothing to do with performance.

    http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/cpu/moore.a rs [arstechnica.com]

    Gordon Moore: The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year. Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years.


    Instead of placing twice as many transistors on a cpu you can instead place twice as many cpus(a few less for the sticklers) of the same transistor count on a single wafer. Even if consumers no longer care about FLOPS they will still be swayed by lower cost, longer battery life, smaller dimensions and passive/quieter cooling.
  • As its ~$175 and its goal it is to reduce price while keeping the same or improved performance with every subsequent revision. Technological improvements are needed to make that happen. While they don't have to be "Moore's Law" improvements (# of transistors per unit area) precisely, they are the same general type of improvements. And, frankly, I don't think the XO and similar systems will reduce the demand for high-end computers. If anything, making basic computers (and experience with them) universally av
  • If clockspeed per ounce of gold per year is measured instead of clockspeed per dollar per year, you still get impressive speed increases.

    The problem is dollars are losing half their value every 3 years. A thing measured in dollars is going to become worthless faster than a thing measured in units that don't lose value. If you measure clockspeed vs. ounces of gold, you get a better relation between clockspeed and time than if you use dollars.

    Unfortunately Moore wasn't an economist. He didn't understand th
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      Say WHAT? You're telling me that in 3 years, this dollar I'm holding will only buy half as much? And that 3 years ago, it would buy twice as much?

      Electronics sure don't follow that.

      Food doesn't follow that. (Especially fast food.)

      Gas does... But that's a special case.

      In fact, let's give up on the specific examples. http://inflationdata.com/inflation/Consumer_Price_ Index/CurrentCPI.asp [inflationdata.com] That shows us that inflation is nowhere NEAR the 15% you claim it is. (3 years, etc etc.)

      So yes, measured per dollar
    • The problem is dollars are losing half their value every 3 years.

      If this were true why did my Hyundai Elantra 2001 cost about 100 USD less then my Hyundai Elantra 2005?
  • Of course (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wcbarksdale (621327) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:29PM (#19972189)
    In much the same way that Americans have given up their SUVs en masse for tiny European two-seaters.
  • by Anti_Climax (447121) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:29PM (#19972197)
    Several comments are stating that Moore's Law is about transistor density not processor speed. This is correct but I feel I should add something very important.

    "The number of transistors on an integrated circuit for minimum component cost doubles every 24 months"

    Weather you keep the original 2 years or drop to 18 months, we're specifically referencing low cost components, which would map directly to the hardware they're trying to put in a $100 laptop.

    So in short, no, a cheap laptop just helps to confirm Moore's Law, not derail it.
    • by lilomar (1072448)
      Right. It should also be noted that Moore's law can be generalized (without losing too much accuracy) to:

      "Technology improves exponentially."

      In other words, any given component is going to double in speed/capacity/coolness, and/or halve in size/price.
      So, yeah, the $100 laptop is a confirmation, not an exception.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      Too bad batteries are not following Moore's Law. Of course they shouldn't be expected to. That is going to limit portable technology more than anything.
  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:34PM (#19972281)
    25 years ago I had a $100 desktop computer: a Sinclair ZX80.
    That did not pose a roadblock for Moore's Law re: desktops, so why would it be the same for something comparable a quarter-century later?
    All the price does is establish a bare useful^D^D^Dable minimum; Moore's Law just means that 25 years from now you'll be able to do on a $100 laptop then what you really want to do on it today - which still won't be useful then.
  • by oohshiny (998054)
    If you can get a full computer for $100, you can probably get a 16 or 32 core computer for around $1000. So, no, I don't think this is going to stop Moore's law.

    Furthermore, there's always the gamers...
  • I somehow doubt it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:39PM (#19972353) Homepage
    Maybe, partially. Cheap hardware won't put an end to Moore's Law; Moore's Law is what's made cheap hardware possible in the first place. If Moore's Law continues unabated, cheap hardware will merely become more capable or even cheaper. If Moore's Law hits a funadamental limit, it will stop of course, unless some workaround can be found. If we ever get to a point where we feel like we have "enough" power, we won't care whether Moore's Law continues, and so R&D budget will probably shift into other areas besides processing speed performance. I think that Moore's Law becomes a lot less important if we can stop software bloat from taking away nearly all the gains that Moore's Law yields.
  • It's not really the consumer market that drives new hardware development. I mean, yes, we would all like to believe that in some way, our own geeky little world has a greater impact than Step number 5: Profit but it doesn't. Look at the latest and greatest technology out there. It is insanely fast but also insanely expensive and often, financially out of reach of the average consumer.

    So who buys that new hardware? Well, no one specifically buys individual processors or memory chips or graphics cards or what
  • (As others have said, Moore's Law has nothing to do with processor power)

    Cheap laptops are leveraging advancement in computer technology in reverse. Think of it this way: A fast, high-end computer costs about $2000. A fast, high-end computer five years ago also cost about $2000.

    So figure the new computer is 10x faster than the old one (I pulled that out of my ass). The idea is that something equivalent to the five year old machine can be built, today, for 10% of the cost of a new one using modern tech.
  • by photomonkey (987563) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:41PM (#19972405)

    I would bet that, outside of the enterprise/gaming groups, tech 'upgrades' only happen because generally speaking with computers, only the latest and greatest are available.

    I can't tell you the number of people I know who have purchased entirely new computers because they've become glutted with spyware, viruses, or have experienced a relatively simple hardware failure like an HDD spin-out or a dead RAM stick. Instead of dropping money on a replacement part and possibly installation services, they just buy a new computer.

    And that comes with good reason too. Look at places like Dell. A $499 desktop isn't too bad at all. And I can promise that system will do everything that 85% of computer users will use it for. Most people don't play hardcore games. Most people don't use applications more processor intensive than productivity suites. Heck, for most people, the computer will be used only for email, Web, watching streaming video and maybe ripping their own CDs to put them on the iDevice of choice.

    But that's the rub. At Best Buy or Dell or any of the retailers, even on their cheapest PCs, you're getting a pretty damn fast machine. You can't get an older/slower/cheaper desktop unless you're willing to buy old parts on Ebay and piece something together yourself.

    For the big retailers, they can't even afford to keep the old hardware in stock, as storing it costs more than the retail value of the computer.

    It really doesn't cost that much more to get a better computer with the current pricing structure. I wonder what would happen if all-of-a-sudden people could get a $150 laptop capable of Web, word processing, basic networking and email?

    Remember how wildly successful Wal Mart was with the $35 DVD player a bunch of years back? It worked because it was so cheap that people either didn't demand top quality, or realized that they didn't need the $1,000 Sony 5-disc DVD changer with DTS surround and optical outputs.

  • Consumers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s31523 (926314) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:44PM (#19972429)
    The $100 laptop is not geared toward anyone that is reading slashdot. It is for poor countries, or even poor inner city areas, with people that have no access to computers or the internet. Demand for cutting edge speed and technology won't subside at all. Not to mention, even the poor kids in third world countries will outgrow their $100 laptop in a month anyway and will want the coolest gadget out there... FUD. Pure FUD.
    • The $100 laptop is not geared toward anyone that is reading slashdot.

      Maybe not the OLPC, but the Nokia E61 is a $100 computer ideal for the average /. reader. I should know, I have one, I am pretty average, and I am reading /.

  • We need to know what happens when computers pass the $100 event horizon.

    Actually we have some evidence of what might happen from the PDA market. Equivalents to the first or second generation Palms should exist at well under the $50 mark, but they don't. Instead, PDAs have become more complex in an effort to keep most of them up at $200 mark, with the Palm Zire holding out as an overpriced bargain at $99.

    This is what I think is behind convergence. Convergence isn't really all that wonderful, but the marg
  • "The number of transistors on an integrated circuit for minimum component cost doubles every 24 months"

    "Except where the added performance will have no impact on the usage"

    For situations where the end user REALLY wants or needs the speed, like PC gamers, dedicated game consoles, science, engineering and other applications where the increase in speed will have an impact. I think Moore will continue to apply for the processors used in those systems.

    However, in situations where the added speed will have
  • by keithjr (1091829)
    As many posters have so commented, it is clear that the use of the term Moore's Law was not appropriate. What the article seems to be attempting to purport was that the drive for low-end, inexpensive hardware is going to have a negative effect on the high-end market, and therefor lead to a decline in innovation and technological progression.

    The former clause above may be true, but that is still up for debate. As stated, there still exists a very thriving market in the enterprise, media production, and gam
  • You know, if we made the C=64 today it would probably cost bout 3.50 and retail for about 10 bucks. I remember when they were over 300 USD. Why don't modern PCs cost 10 bucks? Because we keep demanding more and more out of them. People will want more out of their laptops. This is going to require faster processors.

    Sure, there are still guys pounding away on an old C=64 because it's what works for them. Notice that there aren't too many of them tho.
  • Like the $100 laptop is the first project that encompasses low-end CPUs.

    Smear campaign?
  • It sounds trite but any 10 year old PC worth $100 today will run but it wont run Windows, at least not a current version.

    And, in ensuing 10 years, that old clunky desktop could EASILY be miniaturized down to a laptop size or smaller. Doesn't anyone remember that the Timex Sinclair digital watch had more compute power than early System 360 mainframes, the Apollo onboard computers etc etc???

    Maybe I'm an extreme case but until a few years ago I had an old IBM PC750 desktop I had upgraded all the way up to a wh
  • stuffing AST SixPacks with 64k dram and using a hex editor and prom burner to change the head and cylinder setting for 10mb hard drives. Let me just say that yes maybe but I'm not sure :-)I mean we were doing that to sell machines and because software was growing into Everyone likes bright shinny objects and newer computers are just one example. That being said if a new shinny computer was cheap but did everything I needed to do then I may by it.

    Do I need a nice fancy car when a little econo box will go
  • We just need a tipping point for robots or something up ahead. Imagine vacuum bots becoming truely feasable. Or eBook readers becoming more feasable than books (not very far away anymore). The need for OCR scanners, Elisa-like telemarketer bots and whatnot. Boom! Moores law will be to slow for that.

    Just as moores law just recently made JavaScipt driven browser based productivity software a feasable alternative. What would've you said if someone told you that 5 years ago? You'd've called him a nutcase and so
  • But I will answer the question anyway. Moore's law is not a law, it's just an observation of a set of economic principles. Namely that there is enough financial reward for developing faster chips and the technology is easy enough to advance that speeds will increase rapidly. $100 laptops aren't going to take away the financial reward for high end chips, because there are limitless uses for fast computers.

    On a separate point, to say that a computer is "ridiculously fast" is incredibly small minded. Today
  • Half the posts here are just bickering with the headline. The article doesn't even mention Moore's law. It's a guy who is trying to spread OLPC FUD because, surprise surprise, he is the CEO of a company that competes directly with OLPC.
  • Moore's law is that the number a transistor that can be fit on a particular area will double every 18 months.

    The fact that this makes faster chips is a by product of this 'law'

    This means that you can have smaller and more economical chips.
    When you also take into account that previous generation chips are still very powerful, and cheaper to make it is a boon to cheap laptop; which, by the way, is why we can have cheap laptops in the first place.
  • this may be the stupidest question ever asked on Ask Slashdot. and I've been around for a while and seen some real bad ones.

    Remember the "RAID CD-ROM" question?
  • OLPC needs the cheapest components possible. As such, they need more transistors packed into a smaller area. Moore's Law makes cheaper equipment possible.
  • Moore's law is not about exponential increases in absolute performance, it's about exponential increases in performance PER UNIT COST. The original formulation was based on the fact that the number of transistors in a chip using the CHEAPEST transistors was doubling every 24 months.

    It doesn't matter whether you get twice the performance for the same price, or the same performance for half the price (and half or less the power usage), you're still following Moore's Law.

    The really interesting thing is that Moore's Law applies to everything we make. The doubling time depends on the technology, but the best performance-per-unit-price for every technological product from oxcarts and clay tablets to rockets and ebooks can be shown to follow an exponential curve back as far as we have hard enough figures to plot meaningful points.
  • by perlchild (582235) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @05:15PM (#19975567)
    And here I thought Moore's Law applied to the top of the line chip designs, from manufacturers, not units sold...

    Not that they automatically are incompatible, but Moore's law seemed to pace "research" a lot better than market, ever since I first heard of it...

    The low-cost laptop units are among the first units I've seen to approach what customers really want, as opposed to what manufacturers want... Meaning the olpc won't be "necessarily" obsolescent in a year... And even if it was, people would(wisely, I might add) refuse to pay another 100$ next year...
    Which isn't to say bundling a low-cost laptop, with say, internet service(as I've heard bandied about) might not work...
  • by tyme (6621) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @05:42PM (#19975873) Homepage Journal
    "when consumers realize their personal lust for faster hardware makes almost zero financial sense, and hurts the environment with greater demands for power, will they start to demand cheaper, more efficient 'third-world' computers that are just as effective?" Will ridiculously cheap laptops wean consumers off ridiculously fast components?"

    Maybe these same consumers will also realize that Moore's law also means that in 18 months you will be able to do the same computational work at roughly half the power cost (modulo leakage current, of course), a fact that appears to escape the razor wits at CNet.UK!

    Moore's law is the only reason that we now have $5.00 calculators running off of solar cells generating a few miliwatts from ambient light, or $10.00 quartz wrist watches that run for years off a single button cell. If anything, the $100 laptop will accellerate Moore's law by increasing the volume of products produced and resultant economies of scale.

    The folks at CNet.UK are a bunch of clueless wankers.
  • No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chrome (3506) <chrome@NOspam.stupendous.net> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @08:34PM (#19977887) Homepage Journal
    Real news a bit slow today?

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