For the past 40 years, Moores Law has been about as reliable as Newtons Laws of Motion. The number of transistors on a chip has pretty much doubled every two years, as former Intel founder Gordon Moore predicted. But like Newtons gravitational forces, which could not account for the smaller but much more powerful quantum forces later described by Albert Einstein, Moores Law has its limits: No matter how clever the engineers get, you cant make a material object less than 1 atom thick. Or, as Technology Editor Peter Coffee describes this week, computer hardware is nearing the frontier “defined by the nature of matter and energy.”
Coffee talked with scientists at several of the countrys leading research facilities at corporate and educational institutions over the past few months to find answers to this problem and others that will define tomorrows technology. IBMs research staffers, for instance, are looking to advance microchip design using nanowire transistors, optical lithography and polymer self-assembly. This mouthful wont have much of an impact on your IT budget this year, but in ensuing years it could enable processors to work faster and cooler without significantly increasing manufacturing costs. Other research sites, including those at Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the San Diego Supercomputer Center, are focusing on making systems more reliable and self-reliant and software development easier and more secure.
The future is now at Microsoft, which last week announced a major corporate reorganization—the first outward sign that the company is concerned with its ability to stay competitive. Microsoft officials hope the move will spur innovation and growth, but it really is all about keeping up with the likes of Google and Salesforce.com, report Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft and Staff Writer Shelley Solheim. Microsofts new Platforms & Services Division will tie online properties such as MSN closer to Windows and tools to create a more unified Web development platform. A key aspect of the move involves the leadership of the new divisions.
Longtime Windows Product Manager Jim Allchin is retiring but will work until Vista ships at the end of next year, then hand off the job to Kevin Johnson. Notes creator Ray Ozzie, who joined Microsoft when it acquired Groove Networks this year, is getting new responsibilities that could put him in line to succeed Bill Gates.
The “Great Oracle Application Integration Project” has begun. Last week at OracleWorld, CEO Larry Ellison explained how Oracles Fusion Middleware will enable the company to not only integrate the software it acquired this year but help enterprises integrate their own applications as well, Renee Boucher Ferguson reports. Will users bite? That will be a story for 2006.
eWEEK magazine editor Scot Petersen can be reached at [email protected]