Dual Core: What Is It Good For?

Opinion: Multicore is an expensive technology that does things most of us don't need.

Do all of us need dual-core notebooks?

I guess it hardly matters. I mean, I could put up a stink and say, hey, exactly how many multithreaded mobile applications are there these days?

I could whine about having to pay a premium price for this dual-carb V-8 slated to spend its days on roads with 55 mile-per-hour speed limits, but what good would it do me?

The fact is, dual core is coming to town. Yes, yes, I know it gives better performance, and I should be grateful. I really should. If 64 bits didnt do it, this surely will.

But performance for what, exactly? My LAN parties might go better. One core could drink beer while the other one naps. Then I could still go to work Monday morning. But my games are still single-threaded.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead details here about Intels new multicore offerings.

On the other hand, I could get a sort of Cat in the Hat trick going while flying across the country. I could hold up the cup and the milk and the cake and the books and the rake and the ship and man and the fan and hop up and down on the ball!

Things really do go better with multitasking. But I might get rug rash on my elbows. And the guy next to me would be really annoyed with all that flapping, particularly in coach.

Is it inevitable? Yes, Charlotte, it is. Top to nearly bottom of the line, your consumer notebook will be dual core by holiday season 2006.

Of course, the enterprises will dig in their heels. Qualifying a new image is never fun, but it is in the budget. After all, IT departments have been qualifying images like locusts in cycles ever since the Cretaceous Period, and they will continue to do so until the last life form on Earth dies out.

The retail roll will go through like a tsunami crashing on shore, and six months after introduction, you wont even be able to find the old stuff.

Most vendors will turn their stability lines in a year, and a few will keep some older units on the side for special customers for as long as 18 months or even two years. But after that, its a brave new world.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about how multicore CPUs are spurring a shift in software licensing.

The fact is, itll be an easy transition compared to some that have been jammed down the industrys throat. With a power envelope thats no bigger than the current generation, the rework on mechanicals is likely to be minimal. And the OEMs get something new to sell: performance.

But performance for what? Oh, I already asked that, and God in His infinite wisdom has chosen, for the moment, to hold His silence. Thats okay. I can wait.

The only real issue is that that second core doesnt come for free. With much moaning and groaning, everyone will have to reach into his or her wallet and pull out a few more wrinkled twenties to pony up for one of those gleaming new machines.

Or we could trade down to one of the few single-core Celerons that will be left at the bottom end of the line.

I could whine, but I think Ill just put a sock in it.

Analyst Roger L. Kay is president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc.

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