The End of Hardware?

By Jos · 25 replies
Apr 26, 2016
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  1. The picture isn’t pretty. Whether it’s PCs, tablets, smart watches or now, even smartphones, the outlook for most major hardware device categories is not looking good, particularly in the US. The issue is that both consumers and businesses have already bought a lot of these devices. Plus, they’re hanging on to their purchases longer than they used to, and longer than many people originally thought they would.

    Many companies, including both Intel and Qualcomm, have been forced to make some painful employee reductions as a result of these challenges, and there are likely more from other vendors still to come. So, does this signal the end of hardware as we know it?

    On one hand, yes, we are arguably at the peak of these key hardware categories, particularly when you add them all together. As a result, we are likely to see modest declines in unit shipments from this point forward. After a 30+-year run of growth, that’s tough news to take.

    But there is hope in hardware-land. It just requires thinking about the market in a different way. The key point is to realize that the distribution of computing is getting increasingly diverse. Of course, much of it is moving to the cloud and data centers around the world. Not only is traditional CPU-based computing happening there, but increasingly, so are GPU-dependent tasks. In fact, the architecture of today’s servers is more like a super-powered PC than traditional servers have ever been.

    There is hope in hardware-land. It just requires thinking about the market in a different way.

    But we aren’t moving to a cloud computing-only world. Instead we’re seeing significantly more intelligence and computing power being placed into devices outside the traditional norm. Newer cars, for example, arguably have the most raw computing power of any of the devices that people own, and that’s only going to increase over time.

    We’re also seeing many more devices that previously lacked any kind of real technology being made “smart.” From smart speakers to smart machines to smart, well, everything, the range of “computing” devices is growing tremendously. Unlike the traditional core computing devices, however, these new types of devices often leverage different types of computing hardware. In fact, in many cases, it’s essentially “sensor-based” computing, where there is little traditional computing horsepower, but a great deal of data-generating sensors packaged together with wireless connectivity elements.

    In addition, we’re starting to see multiple steps being integrated into the computing continuum. It’s not just about client devices talking straight to servers—in many cases there are intermediary devices, such as various types of gateways, that sit somewhere along the computing path. There are also increasing efforts to split various types of workloads and activities across the smart clients and connected servers to intelligently take advantage of all the key benefits that each has to offer.

    When you add all these devices, and the components they require, together, it’s clear that there’s still plenty of opportunity to build and sell hardware. But it’s also clear that it’s a very different kind of hardware market. In addition, the companies involved are likely going to be a different blend of hardware vendors than the ones we’ve come to know.

    Component and semiconductor makers that can adjust to this new reality are likely to make the transition just fine, although it’s very possible we’ll see adjustments in their size, power and influence as these market adjustments occur.

    For finished goods vendors, the story is likely to be much more challenging. Several well-known names could disappear in this new environment. Many others will find themselves in a very different position than they’ve been in, and some will (and already are) making the adjustments necessary to thrive in this new hardware landscape.

    Much has been written about the increasingly important role that software is playing in this new world and there’s no question that software is an essential element. However, it’s also important to remember that this dramatically different combination of hardware requires much different types of software, as well. This is not a world requiring or expected to be driven by mobile apps. Developments in artificial intelligence, deep learning, analytics algorithms and the like instead point to a more pervasive and yet more subtle type of software that more easily adapts to us rather than the other way around.

    The end to the long run of traditional hardware growth is a critical milestone in the ongoing evolution of the computing industry, but it doesn’t signal the end of the hardware era. Its impact is really just starting to be felt now, but there’s no question that the reverberations from it will be felt wider, deeper and longer than most expect.

    Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm. You can follow him on Twitter . This article was originally published on Tech.pinions. Header image by Creativity103.

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  2. amstech

    amstech IT Overlord Posts: 1,936   +1,101

    You can tell this is written by someone prior to my generation.

    The hardware we have now is still in its infancy, and is light-years from hitting its peak. In other words, the technology we have now is very immature, and will take centuries to perfect and rationalize. It's very infantile, insecure and extremely poorly built/unreliable. Things have moved along very quickly and honestly, your average person has and uses technology they probably shouldn't.
    If you think back, computer technology has only been around half a century or so, thats not very long.
    Battery technology is still awful, and putting something like i7-5930K power into a smartphone is a few years off. Even if we had that type of power in a smartphone now, it still would meet its boundaries of performance sooner or later.
    I wish I could say more, I have paragraphs of useless babble to commit, but thats as far as I care to go.
    wiyosaya, Reehahs and psycros like this.
  3. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,666   +1,951

    The end of hardware? More like the beginning of a new era of hardware. And yes, it does require new thinking, but there has never been shortage of that.

    The biggest problem on the way to further progress is the humans. In the face of all the new technologies that have been developed, we are the weakest link that slows the progress down.

    Improving the human nature or condition is what it takes to leap forward.

    Think about these:

    * 3D organ printing
    * Integrated wearable electronics
    * All kinds of medical advances
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  4. amstech

    amstech IT Overlord Posts: 1,936   +1,101

    While there are groups and institutions that do not fit my next statement, overall humans are still immature and concern themselves more with making money/being successful then pushing the boundaries of science/technology.
    Until that changes, things will me made cheap, recycled with minor improvements and sold to make profit.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
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  5. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,666   +1,951

    This sort of things can only change slowly, over a long period of time. And those innovations will have to happen against the waves of the capitalistic self-interest. The cost of the progress they call it ;) Just like Tesla managed to arise after decades of very similar but no-go projects. We will get there ;)
    wiyosaya likes this.
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,729   +3,703

    "The End of Hardware?"

    That's not possible. Summarizing too much can have a negative impact.
  7. There is no doubt that purchase has slowed. The question is why? The answer is super simple - companies stopped making meaningful improvements in tech:
    Two simple examples would be the CPU and GPU. Why would people upgrade and spend lots of money on a 5-10% improvement bump in performance?

    Lets take that a bit closer to reality and take me for example...I have been deliberate in NOT upgrading the last 4 years because of the marginal increase in tech performance.
    Basically, lets take the 10% increase every year and extrapolate that over 4 years and what are the results? Well..I think it's actually shy of 40% performance increase.

    End of Hardware? I think not.
    End of Milking the Consumer? Yes.

    PS, Speaking of my 4 year dry run, I'm excited and looking to upgrade this year!! I've been sticking with Nvidia, but this year I'm thinking Team Red!! Maybe.. ;)
    wiyosaya, Reehahs, psycros and 2 others like this.
  8. Nitrotoxin

    Nitrotoxin TS Addict Posts: 114   +67

    *yawn* another addition to terrible articles about nothing...
    freythman, wiyosaya and psycros like this.
  9. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,350   +1,998

    Restructuring, redesigning, more improvements ... yes. But the end? So exactly where will technology go if there is no hardware to run it on? Implants? Nope, that's still hardware. ESP? Hmmmmm, haven't seen the prototype yet! ........ huh!
    wiyosaya likes this.
  10. MonsterZero

    MonsterZero TS Evangelist Posts: 440   +223

    Tl;dr - Hardware is here to stay.
  11. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 2,045   +680

    I'm still waiting on software to catch up.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  12. deemon

    deemon TS Addict Posts: 253   +70

    What a silly article. Seen those doomcryers for decades.
    It's like "Booooohooooo people stopped washing themselves, because they don't buy a new bathtub every 2 years".
    Get real! Just because market is finally normalizing (almost everyone got their working hardware piece now) doesn't mean people stop using the stuff and don't buy a new one if it breaks.
    wiyosaya and cliffordcooley like this.
  13. amghwk

    amghwk TS Addict Posts: 209   +85

    Are Techspot writers bored or what?

    What kind of article is this?
    freythman likes this.
  14. Reehahs

    Reehahs TS Guru Posts: 575   +316

    You hit the spot.

    I am still using GTX 590 and plan to carry on until Pascal provides a compelling reason to upgrade.

    My ereader is still as good as it was 3 years ago and I find no reason to change it.

    Same with my smartphone, bought the flagship Nexus 5 almost 3 years ago and see no reason to replace it.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  15. poohbear

    poohbear TS Addict Posts: 149   +83

    Totally agree with this article. The writing is on the wall & anyone who follows stocks knows this. The tech sector got hammered this quarter, and even the mighty Apple posted it's first losses in 10 years! (That's 40 quarters!!). The future is cloud computing & software. Hardware has plateaued.
  16. robb213

    robb213 TS Maniac Posts: 330   +100

    Stocks are hardly a reliable indicator of the future. Intel stocks as far as I'm aware of hit an enormous high around 10 or so years ago, and haven't hit there since. However, Intel and AMD have made enormous improvements in their technology in all sects within the last 10 years. AMD stocks just rose because they licensed off their x86-64 fork, but there's nothing in the way of growth to show for that in the recent month or so, and nothing for us consumers.

    Tl;dr: Growth/speed of technology =/= stock market fluctuations
  17. CaptainTom

    CaptainTom TS Maniac Posts: 306   +132

    I really think this article correctly calls out the two big points people need to keep in mind when it comes to the current computing market:

    1) Nothing grows forever. Just like the housing market in 2008, everything eventually has its limits. Silicon-based chips are massively holding back innovation considering CPU's have effectively gotten almost no stronger for 5 years, and even graphics cards are slowing down substantially now that they can't just get bigger anymore.

    2) The next big frontier is making tiny 0.1-Watt processors that can be integrated into anything and everything. If Intel doesn't want to miss the next big market like they did with smartphones - they better doubledown on their Quark concept of processors.
  18. amstech

    amstech IT Overlord Posts: 1,936   +1,101

    Cloud computing creates more hardware.
    Server/Hosting facilities are bigger, more widespread then they have ever been.
    Software requires hardware to run, so that doesn't make sense if you put it like that.

    Its just that todays hardware, as it keeps advancing, can run more with less. However, its power & presence are still a requirement.
  19. texasrattler

    texasrattler TS Addict Posts: 253   +77

    Never use the house market as an example. Everyone was lied to. Hell they were handing out houses to ppl that had no credit. They(mortgage companies) caused the mess.
  20. CaptainTom

    CaptainTom TS Maniac Posts: 306   +132

    I understand the housing market was an entirely different set of circumstances, but it is an excellent example of people saying "It can only ever go up". In fact it is THE example of a market where people just assumed up is the only direction forever.

    The point is that nothing ever just goes up. Publicly traded companies are awesome in how they can rapidly grow great businesses, but whenever a market or business levels off people then freak out.
  21. trajan2050

    trajan2050 TS Rookie Posts: 19   +7

    This is just a lull. Development doesn't go in a straight line. We had the regular phone for decades, then the mobile phone for decades, then the smartphone. We will have Killer apps which require hardware exponentially more powerful than today's best.
  22. trajan2050

    trajan2050 TS Rookie Posts: 19   +7

    Exactly correct. Infancy. These articles are written by people with a stunning lack of imagination.
  23. Reedman

    Reedman TS Rookie

    "Hardware" is more than you give it credit for. Every LED lightbulb has GaN making light and silicon converting and regulating the input power into constant current drive. This isn't your mothers tungsten filament and glass envelope. In years to come, every one of these lightbulbs will add wireless networking and multi-color processing. When you flip the wall switch in your bathroom in the morning, it won't be software that is giving you light to shave your legs or face.
  24. Ernestmac13

    Ernestmac13 TS Rookie

    Like so many stories written on Yahoo, the writer of this story only knows what she or he knows and while standing at the cusp of a new tech revolution declares the end of hardware. Current game systems play games at or close to 1080P, future games for the PS5, Xbox 2, and Nintendo NX are expected to be 4X, all of which take up a lot of computing power, not to mention bandwidth if your trying to pump all that to consumers over the Internet. Given that most AMericans have an average Internet speed of 12-20 Mb per second, I fail to see how they expect 4K content to nut suffer from lag which would effect game play. Further complicating game play is the revolution I spoke of, Virtual reality with it's 360 degrees video interactivity is going to require even more computing power and faster bandwidth. The Nintendo NX is rumored to have 1080P graphics, and at some point in the future, some mobile gaming system will probably have 4k. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which I use with my Samsung Oculus Gear VR, and I see the appeal of VR. As technologies like tactile feedback are added to the technology, it will become even more immersive. The history of computers and of video gaming has shown us that, slumps will occur, and then a new revolution will be right around the corner.
  25. Ascaris

    Ascaris TS Addict Posts: 113   +72

    It will be capitalistic self-interest that drives any innovation, as it always is. Planned obsolescence is not the same as capitalism, and it will be self-interested desire for money that ultimately vanquishes it.

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