Plugged In: Desktops Get a 64-Bit Speed Boost
1. Athlon Steps Up to 64 Bits
The Buzz: Yes, Apple may have gotten there first with the G5, but the superfast 64-bit systems on most PC World readers' radar will be powered by AMD's upcoming Athlon 64 chip. Set for a September 23 release, the new CPU will run all the standard 32-bit operating systems. Microsoft is cooking up a 64-bit version of Windows for a later release, as well. Better still, Athlon 64 PCs speed up today's 32-bit apps, even as they whip through tomorrow's 64-bit programs. That's a trick Intel hasn't bothered to pull off with its server-centric 64-bit Itanium chip, which runs 32-bit software slowly.
Bottom Line: The first wave of 64-bit programs will include games, video editing apps, games, other multimedia apps...and games. Of course, the initial paucity of 64-bit software could leave buyers feeling like hyperactive kids at a meditation center.
2. Friendster Around the Bendster
The Buzz: Sure, it's a glorified dating service, but Friendster (friendster.com), an "online social networking community," has become the Web's latest unstoppable force. Using a "six degrees of separation" model, members sign up (for free) and invite other friends to join. Ultimately, you meet friends of friends--when you can get through to the site. Friendster is so swamped by traffic that it can be hard to log on.
Bottom Line: With more than a million members as of August and a reported growth rate of 20 percent a week, Friendster membership should exceed the population of the world by early July 2004. Alienster, anyone?
3. Music Sites Change Their Tune
The Buzz: Drawing their cue from Apple's ITunes Music Store (for Macs only until later this year, sad to say), a slew of subscription-free Web-based services are suddenly selling downloadable songs, a la carte. BuyMusic.com led the PC hit parade in late July when it started selling tunes for about a buck a pop. Then Napster announced it would reopen by year's end, with a hybrid fee-per-song or subscription service model. And AOL, Musicmatch, and RealNetworks plan to open digital download stores this year.
Bottom Line: What a revelation! You'll sell more if you don't charge people before letting them enter the shop. No wonder these guys make so much money.
4. Digital (Video) Gadget
The Buzz: This is it...or rather IT: Samsung's ITCAM-7, due out by early next year, is poised to become the latest gotta-have-it toy for the techno-gadget set. Barely bigger than a deck of playing cards, the digital camcorder/still camera/MP3 player/voice recorder will hold up to 90 minutes of MPEG-4 video, 30 hours of MP3s, or thousands of photos on its 1.5GB internal hard disk. USB 2.0 and a Memory Stick slot will provide needed PC connectivity.
Bottom Line: That's a lot of device for $699. But c'mon, Samsung, where's the built-in bread maker and nail clipper?