More processors/ cores
When PCs first came out, they were so limited that doing more than one thing at the time was out of question. However, as time goes by, people will increasingly want to multi task... why not listen to music while playing resource hungry game, with several productivity programs open, while they all sorts of content is downloaded and the pc synchronizes data from a phone/camera that are automatically processed (for example images and videos could be set to auto tagged as quality of pictures is enhanced). Of course, today, only a hard core geek would want to do all these things at once but if history has shown us one thing, geeks only lead the way.
Increasing the number of cores is gaining more traction for several reasons
- It provides a way to provide more power by decreasing power consumption because the individual cores run at a lower speed
- As miniaturization approaches limits, it allow to increase processing power without necessarily decreasing the size of the processor.
- a lot of the tasks computers do can be parallelized..
Today, one may ask why have 100 processors in a computer when today most processors sit idle but it is actually very logical and with dual core as a standard on most computers sold today and quad core as a common feature on higher end, we will have core increase rapidly as an alternative to faster processors.
Computer scientists often joke that using a huge amount of energy, the most sophisticated super computer has trouble doing some of the basic tasks that the brain does naturally like image processing or understanding/ explaining a movie (or at least most of the brains are capable of of doing so ;)... but even these fare better than super computers taking up huge office space like the simulation of a brain, a cat's brain uses millions of watts). By contrast, the brain operates on only 20 watts and obviously is much smaller. I believe more and more focus is put on using up less energy.
Data centers are particularely aware of this because they operate big numbers of computers; the electricity costs associated with operating the computer are sometimes more than the costs from buying the computer. They litterally save millions of dollars over the years by picking right processor and optimizing cooling costs. Purchasing price is obviously still an important factor when buying a computer. However, electricity consumption is increasingly becoming important as people/ enterprises realize that in the long run they pay for the electrical bill.
Some may ask how does the experience from these large scale entities benefit regular users. These improvements are not only geat for everyone's electricity bill to a small extent but also bring with them increased battery life. Because already today laptops outsell desktops, it is easy to imagine a world where the big boxes that were once in every desk disappear completely and become reserved for high powered servers as computers become more and more mobile.