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Moore's Law and The 48 Core Smartphone / Tablet Video Endpoint of 2017

November 6, 2012 | David S. Maldow, Esq.
Here at Telepresence Options we are always considering the implications of Moore's Law on the past, present, and future of videoconferencing technology.  As many of you know, Moore's Law is based upon a 1965 observation/prediction by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. Without getting too deep into the technology, he basically predicted that computers would double in power every 2ish years, for the next 10 years. Incredibly, his prediction has proven to be accurate not only for 10 years, but for over 50!

We have all experienced the implications of Moore's law. Since the time we purchased our first computers (including my 1984 Apple IIc), every two years our gear feels not only outdated, but practically obsolete.  In terms of software, Moore's law has always meant that the programs which require the highest end machines to run properly today, will run like butter on the low end systems of tomorrow. Perhaps more importantly, it means that programmers have always been wise to develop programs that aren't even supported by the hardware on the market at any given time.

One way in which computer power has increased over time is by the use of multiple core processors. Enric Herrero, an Intel scientist, explains the concept as follows.

"Typically a processor with one core would do jobs one after another," Herrero told Computerworld. "With multiple cores, they can divide the work among them."

When one core attempts to do multiple things at the same time, everything slows down. That is why we schedule our anti-virus scans for 3:00 in the morning, rather than in the middle of the workday. The more cores, the more things your computer can do at the same time without slowing down. A high end desktop computer may have a 6 or even an 8 core CPU, while the iPhone 5 is rumored to have a dual core CPU.

We clearly have a lot to look forward to, with a world of 12, 14, and 16 core computers on the horizon, right? Well, Intel has decided to skip forward a generation or two and is now working with 48 core processors, which it expects to hit the market in the next 5-10 years. For more info on Intel's 48 core development please read the excellent Computerworld article.

The phones and tablets of the near tomorrow will enough power to blow the socks off the desktop computers of today. At that point, won't it make sense to simply use your phone's processor to power the monitors sitting on your desk and get rid of the bulky box taking up the foot-space under your desk?

2012-11-05_13-56-51.jpgSome venders are already making motions in that direction. Motorola released its Atrix computer with an optional laptop dock. Think of this dock as an empty shell, a laptop without any brains. The uptake of this product has been hindered by price and other issues, but that doesn't mean the concept is a loser. One look at the image above and it all becomes crystal clear. Why waste money on a laptop with its own brains, when you already have a massive computer brain in your phone? Motorola isn't the only working on this idea. A company called Clamcase is taking the "shell" concept literally and figuratively with its Clambook (shown below). Again, your phone provides the brains and the shell is just a dumb monitor and keyboard.

Clambook.jpgI don't know whether the world is ready for this yet, and whether today's phones are really powerful enough to provide a satisfactory experience. But if today's dual core phones aren't up for the job, I bet the 48 core phones of the future will be. Even better, I expect they will not require docks, and not be limited to powering little laptops. Imagine walking into a meeting room and having your phone power up a massive touchscreen on the wall from inside your briefcase or pocket. For that matter, what if just about every surface, in every room you entered, became a touch enabled extension of your phone? Forget about learning multiple systems and multiple user interfaces. No matter where you are, every monitor is instantly your computer and works exactly the way you expect, whether you are sharing a document, checking your email, or making video calls.

The big buzz in videoconferencing today is the movement away from traditional hardware solutions, towards newer software and cloud solutions. This movement is perfectly in sync with the trends discussed in this article. Not only will the big hardware infrastructure move to the cloud, but the dedicated hardware endpoints themselves are going to go away. The only question that remains, is which flavor of video software will survive today's market battles to power the hardware of tomorrow.

About the Author
David_Maldow, Esq.David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate editor at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration / rich media solutions. David is focused on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better secure their telepresence, videoconferencing, and visual collaboration environments. You can follow David on Twitter and Google+.

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