Planned obsolescence means endless new toys


The best part about high-tech is that the future is always right around the corner. When industry visionaries talk about new technologies and capabilities, they’re usually discussing things that are only a few years away.

The reason is that high-tech never really stalls. Back in 1965, Intel founder Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors on computer chips would effectively double every year, and on average he was more or less right. That means that every year the whole standard of computing power – the number of calculations a computer can make in a second – also doubles.

That simple fact has so many implications. For people who use computers to design and test other technologies, most desktops can now do the analytical work you needed supercomputers that took up whole warehouses to figure out just a few decades a go.

For software designers, every increase in computing power results in an increase in capability.

Sometimes increased capability equals increased productivity – although not always – which in turns allows for more innovation in every field, from textiles to genetics.

The paradox of these technological gains is that while they make the future come sooner, it also makes the present obsolete a lot faster. And when it comes to upgrades and making things obsolete, 2006 is a big year.

These are the three biggest tech stories for this year.

Microsoft Windows Vista –

This is the first major update to Microsoft’s operating system since XP was launched in October of 2001. XP itself is somewhat controversial, mainly because of the security issues that have plagued the system from day one, and many people are looking to Vista to resolve those issues once and for all.

There’s also a Whistler angle to Vista – during the design phase it was called Longhorn, after the Longhorn Saloon where visiting Microsoft execs and programmers hang out après ski.

There’s no drop dead release date yet, although the first limited release test beta has already been made available to developers. The public release, with nine editions ranging from ‘Starter’ to ‘Small Business’ to ‘Ultimate’ is expected in the fall of 2006.

This is a little on the late side. Originally Microsoft planned to release Vista in late 2003, but after deciding to add several new features and increase security, they wisely decided to push the date back.

What can you expect? Basically, most of what’s already in Apple’s Tiger OSX operating system.

There’s a feature called ‘Gadgets’, a group of mini programs similar to Apple’s ‘Widgets’.

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