In 2001, watch for faster, cheaper and smaller PCs |  Tech & society, Tech & society

Faster, cheaper, roomier -- been there, done that. When it comes to PC predictions, forecasts of greater speed, lower prices, and more storage and memory are getting to be old hat. So what else will be new in personal computing next year? Smaller and legacy-free systems, say the industry experts editors talked with about coming trends in 2001.

Sure, speeds and feeds will continue to surge. Desktop Pentium 4 processors should reach 2 GHz, possibly as early as fall of 2001, according to Intel. AMD will also continue to crank out faster Athlon processors, although the popular chip likely won't keep pace with the P4. AMD expects Athlon to reach 1.5 GHz in the first half of 2001.

Even notebooks and budget PCs are expected to hit the 1-GHz mark in 2001, says Kevin Krewell, senior analyst with MicroDesign Resources. But only professional video editors may really care because today's machines are already more than fast enough to take care of more mundane computing needs such as word processing and accounting apps.

However, a PC that doesn't require much space and doesn't need to be opened up to add a scanner, network card, or other peripheral-now that's something to look forward to.

Shedding size, surplus slots

And good news isn't just limited to the box itself. Analysts at the display technologies research firm Stanford Resources expect LCD monitor prices to continue tumbling. That 15-incher you've been eyeing could drop to $600 by year's end. Want something bigger? Seventeen-inch LCD displays may go for about $1000 in the same time frame.

Your skinny new PC may shed some of its weight and girth by dispensing with such has-beens as ISA slots and parallel and serial ports. Instead, expect more devices that will connect via USB ports and, in the not-too-distant future, their successors-USB 2.0 ports.

USB 2.0 will support older USB devices, but USB 2.0 devices will connect at 480 mbps, or 40 times the speed of their predecessors. That's bandwidth on the order of IEEE 1394 (Firewire) hookups, which are also expected to become more common in 2001-vintage PCs.

All-in-one units appear

Rob Enderle, vice president and research leader at the Giga Information Group, says a more intriguing development in PC shrinkage will be what he calls the modular PC.

This modular unit will have a core about the size of a PDA that contains all the guts of a PC-processor, memory, and hard drive. You'll get the missing components-input device, display, and power-by sliding this core into one of several modules or docking stations. A desktop dock will connect to a full-size monitor and keyboard; a notebook will have a bay for the core; you might even have a PDA module. The key benefit: You'll always have all your data handy-no syncing required. (Just don't lose that core unit.)

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