IDG ‘S PC World Predicts the Future of PCs

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 31 – It seems like technology is changing faster than ever. Office storage rooms are filled with great technological advances that never made it past version 1.0. But, is it possible to avoid buying hardware that becomes obsolete before it's paid for? Yes — if you shop wisely. That's why the February 1999 PC World cover story, "Your PC in the New Millennium," (online now at www.pcworld.com/feb99/futurepcs and on newsstands January 19, 1999) provides a guide to the technologies and trends that will shape the design of PCs for the next three years.

CPUs and Storage: By 2000, Intel's mainstream desktop CPUs will zoom along at a torrid 700 MHz. In addition, the coming three years will see numerous new processor families (more than two dozen new CPUs will appear in the next 18 months), a new memory standard — Direct Rambus DRAM — and perhaps the end to the motherboard as we know it. The enhancements will allow new PCs to handle the emerging tasks of 3D graphics, full-motion MPEG-2 video, and applications like voice recognition. Bringing the keyboard, pen, camera, and speech together, these systems will add new dimensions to PC interfaces. At the lower end, rivalries between chipmakers will improve performance of sub-$1000 desktops and drive budget notebook prices down. In terms of storage, CD-Rewritable may turn out to be the common format for removable storage. By 2000, 50GB hard drives will be commonplace; by 2001, that number could double to 100GB.

The Box: On the aesthetic side, PCs will look better and get smaller. The archaic ISA expansion bus will disappear, freeing up vendors to use smaller motherboards and experiment with space-saving PC designs. Some analysts predict that by 2002, many desktop PCs will be as small as a shoebox. More affordable LCD displays will also take pounds and girth out of monitors — LCDs weigh one fifth as much as today's CRTs, take up one third of the space, and use half the electricity. "Thin is in" for notebooks, yet the need for touch-typeable keyboards will limit how much these machines can shrink. Stunning 15-inch LCD screens will find a home in desktop replacements — feature-laden notebooks that will spend most of their time in the office, not on the road.

The Internet: For many users, the biggest issue is how they will connect to the Internet in 2000 and beyond. Unfortunately, most homes and small businesses will rely on the same old phone lines and modems they use today. On the other hand, phone companies will begin to deliver reliable, low-cost voice-over-Internet Protocol telephony services. It will become more common to rent applications over the Internet, Web-based services will let individuals and groups post and share information online, and applications will become more Web savvy.

Handhelds: Over the next two years, cell phones, beepers, and personal digital assistants will merge to form powerful communications tools. But don't rule out Windows CE Pro "Jupiter" machines yet. At prices less than $1000, these machines plug a gap between tiny handhelds and full-features notebook computers that cost twice as much. However, the real breakthrough in handhelds may come in late 1999, when devices start using a wireless technology called Bluetooth, which will enable fast short-range communications between devices.

The article also includes a roadmap of CPU releases and a complete chart listing the buzz and potential drawbacks to the technological developments outlined above.

PC World is the world's largest monthly computer publication with a circulation rate base of 1.2 million. PC World and PC World Online ( http://www.pcworld.com ) are published by PC World Communications, Inc., a subsidiary of IDG , the world's leading IT media, research and exposition company. IDG publishes more than 290 computer magazines and newspapers and 500 book titles and offers online users the largest network of technology-specific sites around the world through IDG .net ( http://www. idg .net ), which comprises more than 240 targeted Web sites in 55 countries. IDG is also a leading producer of 168 computer-related expositions worldwide, and provides IT market analysis through 49 offices in 41 countries worldwide. Company information is available at http://www.idgcorporate.com.