FRAMINGHAM (07/31/2000) - A few weeks ago, I asked Intel Corp.'s CEO Craig Barrett whether perpetually faster processors for desktop machines were necessary for business. He seemed somewhat irritated by the question but mentioned a few things, such as improved data visualization and voice recognition, that should keep driving an IT upgrade cycle that's long been tied to the famous Moore's Law.
I didn't take the opportunity to debate Barrett, but he's wrong. Business doesn't need faster desktops, even for the tasks he mentioned. In fact, anyone using a Pentium II computer in an office today has more than ample performance at his fingertips to run spreadsheets, access databases and surf the Web.
U.S. companies and consumers are clearly slowing their purchases of new machines. Last week, a Dataquest report showed that for four straight quarters, growth in PC sales outside the U.S. has outpaced growth in the U.S. And the 20%, 30% and even 40% overall expansion of PC sales has been trimmed way back to the teens - even lower in this country.
Analysts are suggesting that once companies upgrade to Windows 2000, they will also invest in new hardware. Perhaps. But so far, there's been no IT stampede to ride herd on Win 2k deployments.
Intel is hardly suffering, since solid growth overseas and in the server market more than compensates for the slowing growth of PCs here. But Intel's success doesn't obviate my question: Why should IT invest in new PCs just because they're faster?
For years, Intel benefited greatly from hardware-cycle upgrades, bandying about Moore's Law as if it were the only reason you needed on your requisition form.
Now, just being faster isn't enough, especially for IT purchases.
IT executives are focused on building performance into servers and networks, and rightfully so. The goal is to eliminate dependence on powerful desktop processing, making management far easier and user satisfaction much higher.
The PC has become an appliance and, like any other appliance in our lives, we are beginning to expect that it will last for many years. Not mere months.
Moore's Law may persist, but Moore's Buying Cycle is, happily, behind us now.