Bill Gates sees processor clock speeds to top out at 10 GHz

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Redmond (WA) – Less than a year from his previously announced departure from the company he co-founded, the Bill Gates today outlined his vision and opportunities for Microsoft.

According to Gates, there are currently six trends, which will be determining Microsoft and its product strategy for the years to come. In a rather unusual way, he mentioned the dramatic changes in the way the hardware engines that will be fueling new applications are engineered.

The fact that performance advances have shifted from a pure increase of clock speed to increased parallelism was described by Gates as a “challenge”. He believes that “parallel execution will be the primary way silicon power will be delivered” down the road and not so much the fact that there is more clock speed available. According to Gates, microprocessors will get to 10 GHz, “but not much further” (…) “even 5 to 6 years out.”

Interestingly, Gates mentioned only Intel by name as a partner in the approach to deliver fine-tuned, parallel code.

The ubiquity of broadband was next in line in Gates’ vision, with opportunities that go beyond simple web surfing but provide distributed computing capabilities for many more users than today – through “mega datacenters that companies such as Microsoft will build.” Broadband also extends to additional opportunities such as off-site storage technologies to provide more reliable backup solutions for users, as well as connected mobile devices and enhanced information devices.

Lastly, Gates spent some time on natural user interfaces, which he considers “one of the most revolutionary things going on” and Microsoft apparently will be spending more time on. A “Surface” device was briefly demonstrated with future applications – but in terms of a current success in natural user interfaces, Gates had to point to competitor’s products: Nintendo’s Wii game console as well as Apple’s iPhone.