An article showed up in my Inbox today: Intel Core i9: It’s not whether you need 12 cores, but whether you’ll pay for them. It is an interesting read, and a very good question.
I have always liked ZDNet. Their people do a good job of keeping a pulse on the industry. Their question is a valid one… will people be willing to pay for 12 CPU cores (presumably on the desktop… people will definitely pay for them in servers).
I used to be very good friends with a man named Willem. Willem is brilliant, and was (almost) always a positive influence on me. He is an IT Professional who moved to Virginia some time ago, but until then he owned and operated a company in Montreal called Saturnus True Data Services. They were not the first computer company I ever worked for… but they were certainly one of them.
One day in late 2005 I was talking to Willem about the new laptop I was buying, an Acer Ferrari 4000. It was sleek, it was gorgeous. It was the first computer I ever owned that had a 64-bit CPU. When I told Willem about it he asked why I would ever need or even want a 64-bit CPU? I admit I did not really have a good answer for him then. Later on I would… starting with the 3.2GB limitation on 32-bit CPUs. However, when he asked me in November of 2005 I couldn’t tell him why I would even need more than 3GB of RAM, because back then nobody really did.
Fast-forward nearly twelve years, and 64-bit CPUs are ubiquitous. I haven’t tried in a while, but I doubt you could even buy a laptop today with a 32-bit CPU.
The hybrid laptop I am writing this article on – my Surface Pro 4 with an i7 CPU – cost quite a bit more than my Ferrari laptop did, and it has a 4-core CPU with 16GB of RAM. Had Willem asked me 12 years ago why I would ever want 4 CPU cores on a hybrid laptop I would have answered honestly with a question: What’s a CPU core? And yet, here I am and it is my go-to machine.
The way our world works is simple: Something is invented and it is expensive… at first. As time goes on prices go down… usually as newer versions are invented. Eventually they become obsolete, and if you are lucky they become collector’s items… usually they become junk. The Ferrari that I paid over $1500 for in 2005 is now selling (used) on eBay for $200… and that is probably because of the Ferrari logo because equivalent laptops from other manufacturers are selling for much less than that. One day my Surface Pro 4 will be nearly worthless too.
So Intel invented a desktop CPU (the Intel i9) with 12 cores. Today nobody needs it. In 20 years nobody will understand how we got by with such primitive technology. The founder of that company, Gordon Moore, predicted in 1965 that “…the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles about every two years.” So 12 cores is simply what was next. Our computers get faster and as they get faster they get more expensive. Then something even faster comes out, and that other one becomes less expensive… until they become obsolete.
So who will pay for the 12-core CPU on a desktop? Probably very few people… now. But give them time; prices will come down, and we will see them out there. Slowly at first, but eventually 12-core CPUs will probably become the standard desktop processors.
…Now who among us feels really old, and nostalgic about our 4.77MHz CPUs?