by Martyn Williams and Tom Krazit, IDG News Service
Consumers thinking about buying a new computer in 2005 might be better
off putting off their purchase until 2006. With few major changes in
PC hardware or software due over the next year, the PC of 2005 is
likely to look awfully similar to the PC of today.
Big changes aren't due until 2006, when the Longhorn operating system
from Microsoft, 64-bit applications, and optical drives based on the
Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD formats will become available to the average
Still, that doesn't mean there are no technologies worth looking out
for if you do plan to upgrade in 2005.
Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are expected to unveil dual-core
chips -- which contain two processor cores on a single piece of
silicon -- by the end of 2005, although they probably won't appear in
mainstream PCs until well into 2006, says Stephen Baker, director of
industry analysis at NPD Techworld in Reston, Virginia.
Intel will likely boost the cache memory in its Pentium 4 processor
and AMD is expected to increase the clock speed of its Athlon 64, but
these changes will be incremental. A more substantial shift in
processor performance, the move to 64-bit computing, probably also
won't happen next year, even though Microsoft is expected to finally
release a 64-bit version of Windows XP in early 2005.
Bigger changes can be expected in chip sets, which handle the flow of
communication between the processor and the rest of a PC. A new series
of Intel chip sets supporting the PCI Express interface and DDR2
memory will trickle down to mainstream systems, or those priced at
about $800, in 2005, Baker says.
PCI Express will allow data to travel faster between the chip set and
peripheral hardware such as graphics cards and storage. Intel has
billed its introduction as one of its most important upgrades in a
decade. While that might be stretching it, mainstream users will begin
to see more and more products that take advantage of the increased
bandwidth in 2005, Baker says.
DDR2 will allow memory chips to move data at faster clock rates. The
older DDR standard is reaching the limit of its effectiveness as
memory clock rates exceed 400 MHz. Memory chip vendors are expected to
produce larger amounts of DDR2 in 2005, bringing costs down and
allowing vendors to put faster memory chips in cheaper PCs.
PCI Express and DDR Memory will also appear in notebooks from early
2005 with the introduction of Intela??s next-generation Alviso chip
set. Notebook sales have been growing faster than those of desktops
for several years, a trend that will continue into 2005, says Roger
Kay, vice president of client computing at IDC, in Framingham, Massa-
Technologies that make it easier to handle music, video, games, and
other multimedia are also on tap for 2005.
PC vendors will release more PCs with Microsoft's XP Media Center
Edition 2005 operating system, designed to make it easy to burn DVDs
and manage digital media files, as well as pause and record live
To help users handle their expanding collections of music and movie
files, PC vendors will also increase the storage capacity of hard
drives in mainstream PCs. Today they are typically between 80GB and
120GB. In 2005, expect to see $800 PCs with around 200GB of storage,
A disk technology called Serial ATA is also becoming established. It
includes a feature called Native Command Queuing (NCQ), which allows a
drive to manage multiple commands from the PC in whatever order it
deems most efficient, rather than the order in which they were
received. It can deliver a substantial performance boost to users, and
that's good news for data-heavy applications such as those involving
In the optical disc space, users are likely to see incremental
increases in DVD read and write speeds. In the latter half of the year
the first PC drives supporting new, blue-laser based disc formats,
Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, are expected to make their way onto the
market. Both formats are aimed primarily at high-definition video and
can store several times more data than today's DVDs. Single-layer
Blu-ray Discs can store around 25GB, while HD-DVD isn't far
behind. Hewlett-Packard recently became the first to go on record with
its plans for shipping Blu-ray Disc PCs, saying it will offer them in
However, the move towards PCs with better multimedia features will
only work if they provide a simple, rewarding experience for users,
notes IDC's Kay.
PCs captured the hearts and wallets of buyers by making tasks such as
word processing much easier. Televisions and DVD players are also easy
to use. People won't want a PC in their living room if it doesn't
provide them with a good experience for their money, Kay says.
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