It may not yet be a widely known fact but computer chips have stopped getting faster. To improve performance, manufactures instead have to add more cores to each chip. And improving performance is imperative for chipmakers: most of the incentive to upgrade comes from the desire and need for that performance spike.
But what if the average user doesn’t need all that performance? To rephrase, what’s an office manager going to do with 12 cores on her or his desktop? Given that the tasks a typical user now does can snugly fit on a smartphone or netbook have we hit a wall in desktop chip performance? If there’s no mass consumer demand, chipmakers may at some point forgo the desktop market entirely.
Grim meathook future for a girl in the high performance computing business, whose financial feasibility relies on the crumbs from the consumer market. Gamers demand high performance for ever more realistic graphics, which drives the GPU market. If desktop chipmakers are going to stay afloat there’s got to be a huge market for chips which scream.
So what’s going to drive the CPU market? The answer is in what is at the heart of computing for most modern casual and corporate users: the internet. The internet needs to get more, well, needy. 3D browsing metaphors may well do it but the future will hopefully bring further surprises.