To the Swift

The race for more PC clock speed continues, leaving a confusing array of chip choices-and cheaper prices-in its wake.

Say goodbye to Intel's Pentium III and all desktop computers with speeds measured in megahertz. They're getting unceremoniously elbowed aside this quarter to make room for a spate of new models powered by 1GHz-plus versions of the Pentium 4 and AMD Athlon processors.

It took us 19 years to get to 1GHz but only 18 months to get to 2GHz-and Intel is already talking 3.5GHz. And clock speed is only one way the chip giants are driving performance for a mind-boggling array of new desktop configurations.


17%
is the estimated drop in the amount small businesses spent on IT products, services and personnel between 2000 and 2001.
SOURCE: Cahners In-Stat Group

Does that mean you can look forward to zippier applications, too? Well, maybe not for a while. Long-lasting improvement would require that Microsoft start writing simpler software, and you know that isn't going to happen. Then, too, brave new apps like videoconferencing, speech recognition and streaming media off the Internet will gobble up clock cycles.

No, history shows that faster processors just breed bigger software that, sooner or later, requires faster processors. So even though you're being deluged right now by ridiculous bargains on yesterday's perfectly fine Pentium IIIs, resist the temptation to "get by."

"Pentium III is dead on the desktop," concludes Gartner senior research analyst Mark Margevicius in Cleveland, Ohio. His research shows that-PCs being what they are-you'll save money if you buy up the power curve and lengthen your PC's longevity.

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This article was originally published in the January 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: To the Swift.

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