Hardware: Does it really matter anymore?

Moderated by Lawrence Dignan | January 9, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, hardware will take a backseat to software -- perhaps for good. Is hardware innovation alive and well?

David Chernicoff

David Chernicoff

It's alive and well

or

Hardware? Ho-hum

Christopher Dawson

Christopher Dawson

Best Argument: It's alive and well

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Hardware is what makes it possible

David Chernicoff: No matter how interesting software is, or how exciting the user experience becomes, without continued innovation in hardware technologies, software will begin to stagnate. Consumers demand, and vendors promise, impovements with each generation of product, and the only way to meet those continued demands is for the hardware to continually improve to exceed the demands of the next generation of software.

Hardware and software existing in a symbiotic relationship, with each step, on either side, driving the other forward to build something bigger and better. Momentary ascendance of either side doesn’t mean that the other is in permanent descent. Regardless of the software technology, the underlying hardware is what makes it possible.

Every major consumer software advance has become possible because of the underlying hardware. The implicit competition between hardware and software brings out the best in innovation on both sides. And that is not going to change anytime soon.

 

Merely a matter of preference

Chris Dawson: As the world moves online, hardware has become nothing more than a religion. I tend to use Macs because I like the OS and the hardware takes the abuse I give it. On the other hand, I’m writing this on a PC in a web browser. I could just as easily dictate it on my Droid. Even in the enterprise, there is a general move to the cloud or cheap clusters of generic servers.

While there will always be a place for high-end hardware and pushing the performance envelope, the vast majority of what we do is now far more dependent on an Internet connection than on 8 cores of processing power or the latest version of Windows running on a Wintel system. How users access the web -- whether it be from a mobile device, a speedy Macbook, a Chromebook, or a DIY desktop -- has become a matter of preference.
 

Talkback

54 comments
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  • Of course it matters

    That's exactly why Apple moved from PowerPC to Intel.

    As for phones, there are some pretty intense games on phones these days, which imposes a requirement on components.
    davidr69
    Reply Vote I'm for It's alive and well
    • RE: Hardware: Does it really matter anymore?

      @davidr69 Apple actually moved from Power PC chips to Intel for better mobile power handling and not really speed. Everyone knows the Power PC chip did very well against the intel chips except for power handling. Jobs finally got tired of waiting for them to reduce power consumption. Just as Apple has now embraced the A5 and A6 to come which may eventually replace Intel chips on some Mac's. Its all about power consumption these days.
      jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
      Reply Vote I'm for Hardware? Ho-hum
      • RE: Hardware: Does it really matter anymore?

        @jscott418

        So, you attempt to refute a claim showing where a change in hardware provided better performance...but your "reason" is because it provided a performance boost (i.e. better power handling).

        And yes, power handling *is* a performance area. Otherwise, you wouldn't see laptop & tablet manufacturers doing all they can to minimize the power consumption of their chips & CPUs to make sure battery life lasts as long as possible...
        spdragoo
        Reply Vote I'm for It's alive and well
    • Declined video game integrity, response time of monitors and need for power

      @davidr69

      This all-in-one world of PC's is finally coming to a reality. People like me who are two finger typist and have enjoyed playing games on their computers for years are coming to an end. Even an XBox 360 will be seeking further new technology with Crystal LED televisions in the near future to raise the bar and create a grandure revenue stream for the next, 'Next Generation'.
      Zurk_Orkin
      Reply Vote I'm for Hardware? Ho-hum
    • RE: Hardware: Does it really matter anymore?

      @davidr69

      Apple moved from PowerPC because both Motorola and IBM failed them.

      Intel processors have always been junk.
      danbi
      Reply Vote I'm for It's alive and well
  • Does not matter for everyone

    I think for a lot of home users. it really does not matter. After all you can buy a iPad with a low powered core CPU that runs IOS just fine. Even play games with it. Or you can get a cheap laptop and play video on it and the speed will be fine. Their was a time when you needed better hardware then you do today. Of course some who have demanding programs such as video editing, hard core gaming, and graphic design certainly need the better hardware. But I do think its over sold and why would a home user buy more then they need? I have a 2010 Macbook Air and it only has a 1.86Ghz duel core Intel and it does just fine for what I use it for. I think the hardware makers would like to convince you that for example a second generation chip is better then the first. On paper I am sure it is. But does that translate into a better end user enperience? Not neccessarily.
    jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
    Reply Vote I'm for Hardware? Ho-hum
    • RE: Hardware: Does it really matter anymore?

      @jscott418

      "I have a 2010 Macbook Air and it only has a 1.86Ghz dual core Intel"
      Then perhaps you don't realize that there is certain hardware inside that particular device which makes that low-speed processor liveable.

      Why would someone buy more than they "need"? Because it's faster, that's why. Sure, there's a law of diminishing returns that kicks in for the highest-end components (i.e. the fastest video cards, SSDs, and processors that no other company can match) but aside from that you usually get the speed you pay for (with the exception of Apple for obvious reasons, and if you're buying Apple, "need" is not a factor).

      I'll use you as an example. Why on earth would you (or any other person who buys a computer to just surf the Internet and process Word documents) buy a 1100-dollar Macbook Air when PCs that cost 400 dollars can do the same thing?

      The answer is, quite simply, the hardware. Does a better keyboard, better trackpad, better battery life, and a drive that makes the computer much more responsive to your commands translate into a better user experience? If it didn't, how could Apple even exist?

      Plus, people usually don't run out and buy every single thing that comes out for the reason that it isn't much faster than the older stuff (you're only usually looking at a 10% increase in performance). For example, you don't have the latest 2011 Macbook Air- and it isn't all that faster than the one you have now.

      But those 10% increases add up. So when you're looking at the 2015 Macbook models (assuming Apple sticks with Intel and everything's the same), you'll be looking at a much larger increase.

      If it didn't, why replace old, still-living components?
      My 1998-vintage ThinkPad 600E still does those jobs just as well as your MBA can. Yet I've effectively retired that machine from service because I needed something that does what it cannot at the hardware level. Just like my old smartphone- I want a device that responds faster when I tilt it and power it up so I've retired the old one (plus there are some things it simply can't run due to hard limitations).

      So I don't think it's oversold because the more expensive stuff is nearly always better and it stays usable longer.
      R220
      Reply Vote I'm for It's alive and well
      • RE: Hardware: Does it really matter anymore?

        @luckyducky7@... Well put and spot on!
        ddferrari
        Reply Vote I'm for It's alive and well
      • RE: Hardware: Does it really matter anymore?

        @luckyducky7@... I have been saying for quite a while that the latest hardware (actually 3 to 4 years ago, or more) is more than adequate! <br><br>OK! What do you need the power for? Gaming? Hah! Modern games are written for the consoles then ported to PCs. They rarely take advantage of the superior hardware available! Video editing? Ah! here I don't really have an argument, as I don't do video editing. Yet, how many people do? I do touch up photos, but that doesn't need raw horsepower.<br><br>What people want is then best user experience! I am running an old Core 2 duo, with Windows 7 and 4 Gig of RAM. I consider that to be overkill!!! But what I have purchased that really adds to my user experience is a(n) SSD boot drive.<br><br>Turn the PC on and it's "there" in seconds! Programs start very quickly! Everything else is just fine! I can't type faster than the word processor, or the spreadsheet. My browser is constrained by the speed of my internet.<br><br>I used to be very interested in getting the latest (actually the 2nd to latest, as it's so much cheaper), and overclocking, and modding with 3rd party heatsinks, etc. But it wasn't being used. <br><br>I see, maybe, cloud computing being the future. A big grunting machine in the background, and light weight consuming devices in everyone's hands. Who actually needs a PC anymore? I can see Smart Phones and tablets taking hold in the user world, and servers in the background (Cloud, whatever)<br><br>Oh! My! IBM mainframes might make a comeback! <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/happy.gif" alt="happy">

        Hey! The vote button doesn't seem to work! I'm for Ho Hum!
        I am Gorby
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • RE: Hardware: Does it really matter anymore?

      2 things compete of home users attention. Battery life and probably more important, price. So my solution is a nice Windows Laptop lower price, and quad core regular PC, then just do your video editing on the PC and that which needs to be portable on the laptop. Use DropBox and TeamViewer to Share and remotely access.

      All for under $1000. A bargain compared to the 'Air'. Then again, If you have lots of cash, and you like to show off, why not go with the High Profile you can use as a mirror.
      RayInLV
      Reply Vote I'm for Hardware? Ho-hum