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February 12, 2005



nice to have you with us carmine ;)

Amit Patel

Back in the precambrian days, there were lots of body plans: two vs. four vs. twelve legs, two vs. four vs. five eyes, mouths vs. feeding appendages, soft vs. hard bodies, etc. Look up "Anomalocaris" and "Opabinia" for some examples. But after Nature tried out lots of different body plans, she picked just a few, including the very popular two eyes, two ears, four limbs with elbows, knees, five fingers, etc. The next generation of animals was built on that pattern -- bird wings are basically arms; fish fins are basically arms and legs; horses walk on their extended toes. They didn't all need five fingers and four limbs; they adapted the basic pattern to suit their own needs.

There's a pattern there. You try out lots of things, settle on a handful, and then build whatever you need on top of that. It's not optimal, but it's practical.

In the computer market, we had lots of PCs, from Commodore, Apple, TI, Atari, Timex, IBM, etc., and we've settled on just the IBM PC and the Apple Macintosh. The next generation of innovation occurred on top of that, with bus types (ISA, EISA, VLB, PCI), hard drive types (MCM, RLL, ATA, SCSI), video cards, etc. And now we've mostly settled on PCI variants, ATA variants, NVIDIA+ATI+integrated video.

For the core OS, we've basically settled on Windows NT and Unix (Linux, MacOS). The innovation occurs on top of that, in GUIs, integration of peripherals, information browsing/searching, and so on. My prediction: new cool hardware will come on top of USB and a stable device driver model and won't be integrated into the GUI. It will instead be a layer on top of everything else, simulating mouse and keyboard and other events. Systems that monitor PC health, user frustration, or the external environment will also be layers on top of the existing ones, and will not be part of the core.


Amit, that's a very good perspective. I like the evolutionary biology analogy. However, I disagree that the core technology that drives our PCs does not need to evolve and that real innovations will necessarily come only in the form of upper layers of software abstraction and new hardware (though intelligent hardware is certainly on the horizon...). Of course, if we don't spend enough time innovating the core, then you are probably correct.


There's a pattern there. You try out lots of things, settle on a handful, and then build whatever you need on top of that. It's not optimal, but it's practical.



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