Computers: A New Windows, and a New Way to Make Processors


This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

This week, with dancers and other events, Microsoft launched the general release of its new operating system for personal computers. Windows Vista became available in more than seventy countries.

This is the first new version since Windows XP in two thousand one. But the long-delayed release did not create nearly as much excitement as there was twelve years ago for Windows 95.

Vista is designed to make it easier to search for files on a computer. The appearance has also been improved. And Microsoft says the new system offers better security. Just how much better remains to be proven.

Most PCs use Windows. But people who may want to buy the new version for an existing computer first have to make sure that the machine can support it. This is true especially if a computer is older than a year or two.

Apple plans to release its new operating system, called Leopard, this spring. But many industry experts say the future of software may be in providing services over the Internet, the way Google does now. That means a move away from loading lots of programs onto individual computers.

Vista is not the only news in computer technology right now. Engineers have discovered how to use new materials to make the brains of a computer.

On January twenty-seventh, Intel announced the biggest change in forty years in the way processors are made. The company says the transistors in its next generation of processors will be made using hafnium, a kind of metal, instead of silicon. Intel says it will also use a secret combination of metals.

Transistors control the flow of electrical current. The new transistors will be the smallest yet, just forty-five nanometers, or forty-five billionths of a meter. Two thousand of them could fit across a human hair. Hundreds of millions will go onto the new processors.

Intel says the new technology will increase performance and use less power. It says it expects to begin production in the second half of this year.

Intel's new design uses what is known as "high-k metal gate" technology. But IBM made a similar announcement on the same day as Intel.

IBM said it has developed such technology for use in chip circuits as small as forty-five nanometers. The company worked with Intel's biggest competitor, AMD, along with Sony and Toshiba. IBM says products with the new technology will go on sale in two thousand eight.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. I'm Mario Ritter.