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

Closing Statements

Alive and well, enabling software

David Chernicoff

While it’s clear that for consumer solutions it is mainly about the user experience, which is a software driven aspect of product design, it can’t be forgotten that merely adequate hardware does not make for a good long-term user experience. If for that reason alone, continued hardware innovation is critical.

It’s also obvious from our debate that continued hardware development in the areas of battery technology, mobile data delivery, and general networking bandwidth delivery are lynchpins in the continued growth of cloud services and mobile devices, two of the fastest growing technology sectors.

And I don’t believe that there was ever any question that continued technological development for datacenter hardware, upon which the cloud and related services will live, will continue to allow the growth of current and the development of future cloud technologies.

In short, hardware innovation is alive and well. While much, at the moment, might seem to be behind the scenes, it is still going on and enabling software to realize its developers’ dreams.
 

No awesome new advances

Christopher Dawson

Never have we seen more evidence that we are truly in a “post-PC era.” While hardware manufacturers are pushing ultrabooks hard at CES this year, the only place where exciting developments are actually occurring is in the cloud. In all seriousness, will you be buying an $1100 ultrabook? Because this isn’t just a post-PC era, it’s post-recession 2012, when value is king and businesses that want to compete must cut corners and introduce efficiencies wherever possible.

Consumers as well love their gadgets, but need those gadgets to be inexpensive, have solid ecosystems, great battery life, and access the web at high speed. While hardware innovation is tied up in this, the real story is software and Internet infrastructure, not awesome new advances in hardware. And frankly, awesome new advances have, appropriately, gone by the wayside in favor of evolutionary platform advances.

Practically a draw

Lawrence Dignan

As much as I agree with Dawson that hardware doesn't matter---and ultimately won't---I have to go with Chernicoff. I'm not about to say that hardware development is tapped out yet. In fact, if I had the option I'd call this debate a draw since both and Chris and David made good points. As we stand today, however, I declare Chernicoff the winner.

 

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