2009: New but not always Improved
As discussed in the previous article, 2009 is bringing many technological improvements and a small amount of trickery.
One of the hardest tasks of any company is to educate their target market: some companies have found a way around this. With increased competition, companies feel compelled to lower prices and thus, need to find ways to compensate for this revenue loss. The increasingly popular method to reduce production costs is to remove important features for which consumers don't know to look. The severe downside is that the features which are removed are the features which lead to long lasting computers. The production company's goal is to reduce the usable life of a computer to a term of one to two years.
If your goal is to have your product become obsolete or non-functional as fast as possible, the primary characteristic to remove is expandability. Expandability is the area about which most consumers are not well informed. If a product is not expandable, it ensures that new technology cannot be added to the product down the road. Expandability is being drastically reduced in the lower end computers, such as those by Dell, Gateway, Apple, E-machines, in ways you wouldn't necessarily expect. You would be surprised to know that some computer models are now shipping with batteries that can not be replaced, while others have no CardBus slots (the primary expansion slot of portable computers). When directly asked about this, the companies explain that these features were removed to conserve space. This does not ring true, since there is little difference in external or internal size between current and past products. The positive news is that you can avoid being tricked by this practice. Instead of assuming the computer will have the desired ports, expandability, removable batteries, etc, confirm everything. Verify your computer will have at least one CardBus slot, so that you can add features that become available within the next eight years, verify the hard drive is upgradable, and ask about anything else you would normally think wouldn't need asking. After you have asked your questions and found a computer that features expandability, guaranteeing a long usable life, you will see some new options relating to storage.
Hard drives have been a standard component of computers for years. Now there is an option. SSD (Solid State "Drive") technology offers high performance mass storage (like a hard drive), without the need for moving parts. SSDs are advertised as being the logical upgrade from hard drives, as they are not susceptible to the same shock related damage. However, it's not all as good as it seems. SSDs do offer advantages in certain instances, but in other instances, it's simply a trade. Hard drives, as discussed in previous articles, feature a glass or ceramic platter accessed by a "head", suspended microns above and below the platter. If the drive is moved at all while the head is over or under the platter, it is likely the head will scratch the platter and corrupt data. SSDs are not susceptible to damage in this way, however they have a different limitation. SSDs have an over-write limit. This means that data can only be changed a finite (currently relatively small) number of times before the device starts to fail. If Apple Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows has been installed on your computer, this limit can be reached by automatic system tasks within a year or two, mandating the SSD be replaced. However, properly installed (shock mounted) hard drives can typically be used for ten years or more without experiencing a shock that will cause data loss. SSDs do, nevertheless, have a place. uPCs, ultra portable computers, are an ideal use for SSDs as these devices are typically used less frequently than one's laptop or stationary computer. If your uPC is a supplementary computer, then an SSD is preferred. If your uPC is intended as your primary computer, such as in a docked environment, then opt for a hard drive.
A newly popular software option, that aims to illuminate the effect of viruses and almost eliminate your need for IT support, will be discussed in the next article.