What Does the (Near) Future of Processing Power Look Like?

The central processing unit (CPU) is to every electronic device as a motor is to a vehicle. The amount of instructions that CPUs can carry and execute is increasing at an alarming rate, broadening the market for both consumer and enterprise technology considerably. Concepts like Moore’s law have laid the groundwork for a technological playing field that constantly keeps getting more interesting. Everything from their architecture to the amount of transistors they carry affects their performance. Everyone who follows the latest news about tech hardware seems to be interested in what the future may look like in both the desktop and mobile world. It’s time we discuss it.

cpufuture-sixcore

When Intel’s Core2Quad CPU came out, a lot of people just didn’t consider it worth the investment. Why put money into something that runs your programs just slightly faster, when your dual-core can still hold on for another three to four years? Several years later, people still feel the same way about quad-core CPUs. The only difference is that they’re so much cheaper now, that the incentive to buy one isn’t as easy to resist. So, at this moment, it’s very common for someone to buy or build new computers with four cores, or at least two cores and four threads.

Now, we’re seeing the same thing happen with six-core systems. Intel’s first six-core CPU had a strong positive reception, but it wasn’t exactly their best-selling chip. They didn’t even expect it to sell so well from the start. It was out there for only the most hard-core hardware fiends anyway. But now, it seems like mainstream desktop manufacturers are starting to create six-core systems in larger numbers. Before long, six-core may be the new norm, and 8-core systems will be another frontier to tackle. In fact, have a look at the latest Mac Pro. It has a 12-core chip and specs that will blow away some of the most sophisticated home-built systems.

cpufuture-64bitphone

With all the hype floating around about 64-bit mobile CPUs, I really don’t think we should get too excited. Perhaps one of the things that does excite me about 64-bit CPUs is the extra addressing space allowed in RAM, which lets you use more than 4 GB. Currently, most phones have 1 or 2 GB of RAM, so it’s really no use. Other than that, I honestly see nothing very advantageous in 64-bit phone CPUs, the principal reason being that it’s very likely that app developers may hesitate to port all of their apps to 64-bit architectures and release two versions of the same app while keeping them both up to date. It’s just not realistic for most people. Most of them will stick to 32-bit app development and just call it a day. So much for spending another $500 on a new phone with a CPU you’re barely ever going to harness the power of.

Smart watches currently compose a very young part of the mobile device market. While they do not offer as much functionality as a smartphone or tablet, they still provide a comfortable level of assistance to the user. The current standard on smart watches is an anemic single-core CPU. Lately, new smart watches such as the “Tigon” are coming out on the market with an extra core to help them handle the inevitable rise in complexity that their apps will have. I don’t think that smart watch CPUs will evolve as quickly as that of smartphones, though. This has a lot to with trying to contend with the limited size of batteries.

One thing is certain, though: Smart watches are going to create a demand for high-performance CPUs that consume extremely small amounts of power. This might lead to innovations that will affect other devices we use.

If you think you have some insight into the future of CPU technology in any of the fields discussed (or even those I haven’t covered), please leave a comment below!

7 comments

  1. You seem to be a bit biased in your article, in that you only talk about Intel, as if that’s the only processor mfg out there…

  2. ..why bother with 6 cores when octa-cores (8-cores..) are already out on the mainstream..
    the Samsung Galaxy S4, as well as the S5 (if the schedule is right..) are already 8-cores Exynos 5410 SoC with a 128gb NAND storage, and a PowerVR SGX544 MP3 GPU..
    ARM has been running these CPUs on a LINUX kernel (android is a derivative of LINUX..) and is able to handle multi cores and 64 bit processing.. why go for a 32bit when there will be significant app improvement if they are 64bit…? besides, almost all 32 bit apps will work on a 64bit platform, so why do you need to port your app to both 64bit and 32 bit.. old 32bit apps works fine on a 64bit, but for new apps, its better to port them to 64bit now, since the evolution to 64bit is simply inevitable.. a 64bit app works a lot faster on a 64bit platform.. dont worry about the memory thingy.. the industry is bound to follow that more memory is advantageous to a 64bit.. if samsung has developed a NAND with 128gb, whats going to stop them from installing more than 4gb as ROM.. and that will simply happen this year..

    ..on another note.. why are we still discussing 6 cores or 8 cores when a company called ADAPTEVA have already developed a 64 core epiphany CPU on a 28nm chip fab..

    Epiphany-IV silicon devices available as part of Parallella boards in Q1/2014. Chip reference design IP available for licensing in GLOBALFOUNDRIES 28SLP process.

    Features:
    64 High Performance RISC CPU Cores
    800 MHz Operating Frequency
    102 GFLOPS Peak Performance
    1.6 TB/s Local Memory Bandwidth
    102 GB/s Network-On-Chip Bisection Bandwidth
    6.4 GB/s Off-Chip Bandwidth
    2 MB On-Chip Distributed Shared Memory
    2 Watt Maximum Chip Power Consumption
    IEEE Floating Point Instruction Set
    Fully-featured ANSI-C/C++ programmable
    GNU/Eclipse based tool chain
    Source synchronous sub-LVDS off chip links for host or direct chip-to-chip interfacing.
    Chip to chip links for integrating up to 64 chips on a single board
    324-ball 15x15mm flip-chip BGA

    • Octacore is going to be very common in the mobile market, yes. However, this trend is not going to hit the desktop crowd so soon.

      The mobile scene has very exciting prospects, but I certainly hope that desktops can surprise us once again with awesome innovations.

      • ..the desktop world has already matured and has already left us.. the mobile world is now the leading IT trend and it will get more exciting as more technology becomes abound.. i mentioned about epiphany IV… the SoC is now a reality.. its just a matter of when, not how, this 64cores tech (also known as multicore parallel computing…) become part of the mobile world.. and this 64core tech is now available for your evaluation for just $99 and comes with a motherboard, SDK, and compatible with all the off-the-shelf peripherals NOW.. indeed an exciting move for the mobile world.. on another note: almost all gadgets, from intelligent refs, home security, car tech, home automation, building maintenance.. and the like.. are now all running android.. this was the dream of microsoft and they really tried hard to make this happen.. they even have a demo home in Seattle as a showcase.. but never took-off.. android, on the other hand.., are making strides and products are now flying off the shelves with this tech.. so dont worry about the desktop.. it will still be there, but mostly in the background..

  3. wow,nyc article it enables me to get up to the current trends,they are part and parcel of IT ,even if not much but i find a lot of knowledge from your post.Thumbs up

  4. Intel have.had 10, 12, 16 and24 core xeon out for close.to 12months and. Most of them xeon ate designed for 4cpu + seen 8 2core CPUs in 1back server 1280 l1 cache on every core 1or2meg l2 cache shared per pair of cores then l3 cache between 12and 16m per 4-8 cores

    • Does your computer have one of these powerful Xeons? It may have one, but chances are that most people don’t. I’m talking about mainstream processing power. These chips need market viability, demand, and streamlined manufacturing to go mainstream.

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