Move where the puck is going to be: Bet on lower processing power?

by phil on Friday Dec 4, 2009 12:34 AM

Is this part of a larger pattern? More and more, me and my friends are finding that we prefer the mobile versions of a site the best.

For example, I preferred the mobile version of the SXSW schedule hosted on instead of the printed one that I held in my pocket. The mobile version required less space, didn't have to be unfolded, and didn't require that I scan through the schedule to find the right day that I wanted. It also let me favorite certain events, and get a consistent visual of what I circled, as opposed to trying to interpret what my various pen markings meant on the printed schedule.


At first, I was skeptical when Google said it was betting big on lightweight computing. For example, one of their primary focuses on Chrome is to throw out as much extraneous stuff that's in Firefox and Internet Explorer, and then optimize little details about JavaScript. The result is that Chrome is the browser of choice among cutting-edge geeks.

And then I saw that Facebook made a Lite version which renders faster than their normal site. This is now my default setting on Facebook.

What gives? Don't these two Internet juggernauts know that Moore's Law will make the need for less computationally-intensive websites obsolete? Bandwidth is doubling, processing speed is doubling, why on Earth would you bet on things becoming more constrained? Won't netbooks become so fast for so little money that all the efficiency gains that Chrome has made won't matter? You should "move where the puck is going to be," and build for next year's specs. That's been Microsoft's strategy and it has worked well for... oh wait.

Or, engineers will keep making lighter and lighter devices (think iPhone Nano) that there will always be a demand for more and more efficient consumer software.

Or, despite the inexorable upward trend in computing power, consumers will always thirst for more speed. For example, the Lite version of Facebook renders a few milliseconds faster, but I can notice the difference. By using Lite versions, I've been able to get more reuse out of my existing computer.

Or, computer adoption growth is happening more in places like India and China where the latest processors aren't the norm.

I think this is part of a larger trend, and perhaps actually "where the puck is going to be." Look at the Nintendo Wii and DS, the best-selling modern gaming platforms, both of which are lighter, processor-wise, than the XBOX 360 and the Playstation 3. (Oh, and the Playstation 2 is still selling really well).

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