For decades, the computer industry has been driven by Moore’s law, which started as an observation by Intel’s Gordon Moore that computer chips doubled in capability (or shrink in size by half) every 18 months or so. But at this point, the law has become something of an edict in the industry: improve compute power or bust.
In the shadow of Moore’s law, however, has been another computing trend that’s just now starting to emerge. Based on six decades of data, researchers have found that the energy efficiency of computers also doubles every 18 months.
This power-saving trend, called ‘Koomey’s law’ after Jonathan Koomey of Stanford University who led the study, will have even greater implications than Moore’s law in the coming decades. Consider our love affair with the phone, laptop, and tablet, all battery powered computers. Portability now trumps computing power for many people. In an era where energy efficiency reigns, Moore’s law could become moot.
Here’s my take in Technology Review: