Just as I was commenting on how nice it would be to have a TiVo-like capability on my car radio, I saw that Toshiba has begun to promote its new 30GB 2.5-inch hard drives for use in automotive entertainment, information, and navigation applications. Toshiba had 81 percent of the automotive hard-drive market in the first half of 2005, according to TSR, and has shipped more than 2 million units to automotive manufacturers and head-unit manufacturers for OEM and aftermarket products. Hmm, while I know that these drives are being used mostly for in-dash navigation, how long before the radio gets an upgrade?
At the same time, Toshiba announced a 40GB 1.8-inch drive for use in cameras, toys, and who knows what. Thats when it dawned on me that for the next few years, progress and technological innovation may be more influenced by the availability of a lot of memory gizmos holding massive amounts of data that can now be put anywhere, rather than by processors or anything else.
Over the years, there has been one thing that cannot be overlooked in the tech game: When new inventions make their way onto the scene, changes take place. The laser printer resulted in the desktop-publishing boom. The first hard drives made DBMS systems practical. The digital camera and the ink jet printer revolutionized and repopularized photography.
CPUs and processors have kept pace with these changes but have had arguably little influence themselves—except for their existence. Even with high-end gaming, it was the graphics cards that made the difference. But all the while, we have been hung up on the processor, perhaps giving it more credit than it deserves.
Processors have been getting faster and faster as chip technology improves. But its the stuff flying around the processor, such as these new hard drives, that is responsible for changes in the landscape. What are the big trends right this minute? Blogging, social networks, iPods, podcasting, high-end gaming, USB thumb drives, and wireless networking. None are dependent on, say, dual-core technology or more gigahertz. These things are all made more efficient by better and faster CPUs, but they are not dependent on them.