Andy Grove, head honcho at Intel and one half of the duopoly which now effectively (or predominantly, at least) rules our lives, has rightly said Europe needs to invest more in teaching its young people about IT.
Without it, he suggests, we will be totally uncompetitive in world markets.
At face value, there is no way of arguing with this assessment. Yes, we need all the IT skills we can accumulate, and yes, that will help us maintain what little credibility we have left in world markets. But there is another way of looking at all this.
For a start, it could easily be argued that, rather than simply calling on Europe to invest more in IT skills, Grove could have apologised for Intel's part in creating one of the most tortured and tortuous computing environments possible. The fact that we need to buy Pentium-based hardware with enough disk to sink an old mainframe just to achieve much the same functions as we did on PC/ATs says much about what has gone wrong.
What should happen, of course, is that Intel and Microsoft might consider making products more suited to humans, rather than having us stunt our minds and creativity to meet the limited and resource-hogging capabilities they have generated. But they now have a severe case of vested interest in maintaining and growing the status quo. All they really want from European youngsters getting more IT training is more sales of their products.
It's a wonderful combination. This duo have created an almost self-perpetuating business, where the bulimic needs of increasingly resource-hungry software are met by the arrival of ever-more powerful processors. Even Apple, if the rumours are true, is said to be considering capitulation and joining the Intel and Microsoft fray.
Now Intel is demonstrating an even more powerful processor, an implementation of the P6 architecture running at 400MHz. Let's face it, this is amazing technology, especially as it uses the same 0.35 micron technology used in current Pentiums. So it's hardly even desperately 'clever'.
Do we really need such a development? Do we need Intel to sweat blood on its design and development? Why not put the effort into making what we already have cheaper?
One reason may be that such power now seems to be essential if applications and operating systems are to be seen to be working at all. Another is that users have such grand expectations of what can be done, that oft remain unfulfilled.
Take, for example, Windows NT. The US research group, Forrester, has recently issued a report which suggests NT is still not ready for mission-critical applications, and that it scales poorly to suit the needs of bigger businesses. Even Microsoft says we should wait until the launch of NT version 5 later this year to get something which matches the existing performance of Unix (and Intel was saying "use Unix" back in 1985 when it launched the 386). Yet NT has been just around the corner, now, for a good few years, and still it is the next version which will be "the one".
It was always said you had to wait for version 3.1 of a Microsoft product before it was worth buying. Perhaps because NT is a much bigger, more grown-up system we need to wait twice as long. Perhaps the company will have got it right by version 6.2.
Maybe this is why Microsoft is now predicting a slow-down in its rate of growth, or perhaps it just suspects that, this year, it may get rumbled.
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