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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Microsoft, Intel Scheme For World Domination

Manufacturers know that within three years of a personal computer leaving their warehouse it will most likely be both useless and worthless to the person who bought it. If this were the case with televisions, cars, fax machines or photocopiers, consumer groups around the world would be screaming that this was an insidious capitalist plot to defraud consumers at the expense of Wall Street investors. Imagine if you had to replace your television set every three years just to be able to keep watching your favorite programs!

PC buyers, however, have become used to the fact that in return for computers able to perform more tasks, older models must be periodically trashed and new ones bought.

But though PCs and programs are getting better, this process is just the result of advancing technology. The main forces within the PC industry -- Intel and Microsoft -- have a vested interest in customers buying their products as often as possible. They introduce technologies that give their users little alternative but to upgrade their hardware and software.

It has been a regular shift in the dominant operating system that has forced most buyers to keep ditching their PCs for new ones. Users of DOS applications had plenty of power with an Intel 286-generation microprocessor. But it was the introduction of the Microsoft Windows graphical user interface that forced users to move to a system built around an Intel 386 processor. Having killed 286 sales with Windows, Microsoft moved us onto the new Intel 486 processor with its power-hungry, versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications. These programs ran on a 386-based PC as quickly as pouring treacle.

Finally, using a 486 PC with Windows 3.1 and a suite of Microsoft applications was a perfectly adequate combination. But with the release of Windows 95 last year, the pressure was again on users to upgrade to a PC based on the Intel Pentium processor. Not only does Windows 95 require a faster processor and more memory, but Windows 95 applications are bigger and demand more power than their predecessors. In 1997, Intel is gearing up to push the PC market onto its latest microprocessor, the Pentium Pro. As usual, there will be no real upgrade possible other than buying a new computer.

The lever with which we will be prized onto the Pentium Pro will be Microsoft Windows NT. Windows NT, an operating system designed for networks, so far accounts for only a fraction of operating system sales, but its share of this market is rapidly growing. Windows NT demands big system resources. To get the same kind of performance you currently enjoy with a Pentium-based PC running Windows 95, it requires at least double the amount of memory and a quicker processor.

Since this ploy is so transparent, it has not gone unnoticed by thousands of corporate PC buyers who have to annually allocate huge amounts of money to operating-system upgrades. Right now, many very large PC buying structures are evaluating how to manage this process in the long term. One sign has been a reluctance within firms to upgrade to Windows 95. Another sign has been that several blue-chip companies have been flirting with idea of network computers -- which are unlikely to need frequent upgrading since they rely on the operating system and processing power of a host computer.

There has even been heretical talk of removing Microsoft and Intel products from the desktop altogether. Nevertheless, I sense that when its three years are up, my PC will be heading for the scrap-yard.

Robert Farish is the editor of Computer Business Russia fax: 929-9958; e-mail: