However, because the increases in demand for processing power will be steady and incremental rather than the result of a sudden change in software or hardware features, it offers no short-term panacea for PC vendors that have been struggling to find a way to jump-start the consumer and corporate PC markets. Likewise, user organizations responding to the current economic downturn by lengthening desktop and laptop life cycles beyond three years will face no near-term disadvantage from failing to immediately ramp up the power available on end users' desktops.
The most obvious driver for new computing power has always been increasingly complex applications. Although most business computing has remained rather mundane (i.e., pushing text and numbers around), an increasing number of advanced computing techniques are starting to find their way into everyday (albeit specialized) usage - including computer simulations, rich 3D visualization tools, advanced learning systems, and contextual adaptation capabilities. We do not expect all users to have an ongoing need for these applications, but developers will inevitably begin to use these techniques in a wider range of applications, fueling the need for more power in an increasing number of client systems.
PC system administrative and maintenance tasks will also utilize more processing power as it becomes available. These includes system "housekeeping" tasks (i.e., tools that monitor, correct, update, and optimize the system), reliability enhancements (e.g., system file protection and redundancy), the elimination of performance "bottlenecks," and synchronization of information between devices using the PC as the central hub. Microsoft has already begun to implement some of these capabilities in Windows XP and Windows 2000 Professional, and more advanced features will continue to emerge.
Users will also benefit from improved information management capabilities to cope with the ever-rising flood of information arriving at their desktops via e-mail, instant messages, voice mail, Web sites, etc. New system capabilities will likely include enhanced e-mail management technologies, processing capacity to handle multiple streams of rich media as well as metadata (e.g., XML tags) associated with content and interactions, and enhanced encryption and other security capabilities resident on the client system.