Moores Law – Technology or Economy?

This law has always been puzzling me. You seem to see it everywhere, everywhere someone wants to make themselves look more intelligent – it’s sort of cliche. But then it occurred to me, maybe this law isn’t really much of a law or prediction, but more of a self fulfilling statement.

What I intend to demonstrate, is that this law is something which marketing people are pedaling. I’m not saying the law is fundamentally flawed by any degree, I’m simply pointing out its’ true meaning and other factors operating behind the law and as a result of the law, and its’ misuse in the context of technology.

First of all, Moore’s law states “in which the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years”. Now the market is quite happy with that, and in fact they have found ways to bend this statement, like by saying that speed doubles every two years.

Now consider the CPU product cycles. They are quite short – around two years. And the market – they like to keep upgrading.  But now consider that Moore’s law implies dependence on two things, transistor count and cost. I’ve seen plenty of articles over the years of new technologies which could obliterate the two year cycle and more than double the transister count. But that’s not the problem isn’t it.

My thoughts are that, CPU manufacturers could build inexpensive CPUs which obliterate the law’s boundaries, but such technology is best saved for when they need it to keep up with the law and specifically a market which is ready to consume it.

Pretend Intel today, released 16 core CPUs, the market would love to fork out the usual premium at the start of the product life cycle, which would then be left to the higher volume lower cost market at the end of the product cycle. But then what would Intel do? Now all of a sudden the consumers don’t need to upgrade for longer, meaning Intel’s next jump won’t be so successful. The “market” from the vendors perspective needs steady increments.

So in summary, CPU manufacturers hide behind Moores law, to make customers buy up regularly. Journalists love to commentate on the latest technology and point out that it’s following Moore’s law. It’s because Moore stated the law that the CPU manufacturers didn’t feel obliged to commercialize all of the IP all at once. And it’s because of Moore’s law that customers don’t expect anything more, they just continue to fork out the money every 5-7 years for their new you-beaut server of the day. So I believe the law is less about technology and more about describing an approximation of a an industries financial capacity for a product cycle.

I guess it’s not so much a conspiracy – the system does work after all. But more of an insight of MHO – words can be powerful.