The computer industry is quietly making a dramatic design change to the CPUs that run modern PCs, putting two computing engines on each wafer of silicon. The new dual core chip is one of the biggest shifts since the advent of the microchip itself, allowing processors to do more work with less power.
Cramming more tiny transistors into the same small space created the first powerful microchips that helped launch the personal computing revolution in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet, over time, engineers faced growing problems as new-generation processors gobbled up electricity and ran hotter and hotter. Dual core chips debuted earlier this decade (on servers and workstations) as a way to boost processing power at a reduced speed. Now both AMD and Intel plan to use them as CPUs for PCs later this year.
Even with dual core chips, chipmakers have not yet abandoned Moore's Law, the industry dictum that the number of transistors on processors doubles roughly every 18 months. Yet they are slowly preparing for the day when that standard becomes irrelevant.
Microsoft jumped into the anti-virus market by offering a free program that removes some dangerous infections from PCs. The software powerhouse wants to dispel the popular belief that it is lax on security, since Windows is a favorite target of computer crackers. The program is said to complement traditional protection programs, such as those sold by McAfee and Symantec. It removes viruses but does not prevent new infections-and is a step toward an upcoming package to be offered for sale later this year.
The free add-on appears in the Windows Update and Auto Update functions in Windows XP. (Since more than 112 million PCs are set to use Auto Update, the new product emerges overnight as one of the world's most popular anti-virus tools.) Microsoft made two recent acquisitions that generated curiosity about the company's future push into security programs. The first was GeCAD Software, a Romanian anti-virus firm, back in 2003, followed by Giant Company Software, which specialized in anti-spyware products, late last year.
Bits & Megabytes
· Oracle completed its acquisition of rival PeopleSoft, ending an 18-month boardroom battle between the companies. The $10.5 billion deal combines two of the world's three largest business software makers. Oracle plans to purge thousands of workers among PeopleSoft's 11,500 former employees.
· Sirius plans to add a wireless video to its satellite radio offering starting next year, including premium content for children. It will probably target people who want to show TV programs in the back seats of cars and SUVs. Sirius licensed Microsoft's Windows Media Video technology for the service.
· A U.S. appeals court ruled that music labels may not use copyright laws to force internet providers to identify suspected song pirates. A three-judge panel ruled that Charter Communications wasn't responsible for 93 cable modem customers who allegedly traded 100,000 copyrighted music files online. This affirms a 2003 decision, but is not likely to hamper the recording industry's campaign of lawsuits against MP3 swappers.
· Embattled Enron founder Kenneth Lay bought sponsored links on Google, Yahoo, AOL, and other portals so that people searching for "Enron" or "Ken Lay" see a link to kenlay.info. The site, set up by his litigation team, promises "the truth about Ken Lay" and includes carefully selected information about the executive and his legal battles. Mr. Lay, who was indicted last July on charges of fraud, conspiracy, and lying to banks, pays the services a range of 5 to 12 cents each time a user clicks through to the site.
· Comcast plans to offer its Digital Voice internet-based phone service in all its cable TV markets by next year. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offers unlimited local and domestic calls-including caller ID, voice mail, and call waiting-to broadband customers for $39.95. Charter has also begun rolling out the service, but Comcast throws in an unusual feature: a 16-hour battery backup, so that phones will keep working during a power failure.