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Simon Solotko Discusses New Technologies - Eyefinity - Intel Light Peek

7 May 2006
London, Ealing
In this entry Simon Solotko brings you up-to-date on his digital nexus hypothesis, a vision for the evolution of the PC into a central computer. Two recent innovations, ATI Eyefinity and the first demonstrations of Intel Light Peak have convinced him that this hypothesis may be moving from potentiality to innevitablity. Yes, Simon is the guy in all of those overclocking videos and has been a driving force behind AMD64 technology, overclocking, and now this…

As you may have read elsewhere I spend more time than natural thinking about the future of computing.

The personal computer is personal, being for one user at a time, on a single desktop, in one personal session, in one room. The evolved personal computer, the central computer, is designed for several users, each on their own screen, running multiple concurrent, but private sessions, anywhere in the home or beyond.

I have employed the term “digital nexus” or “central home computer” to describe a multi-user computer which supports several users at once, employing a single pool of computational resources and applications, from multiple locations. Applications may be installed once and used by each user. Settings may be set once and used in each location. User profiles can be customized and each user enjoys their own, separate usage session. The full computing experience is available in multiple locations and computing resources are shared by the group.

I call this model the multi-session | multi-person | multi-screen computing model. This model requires a multi-session operating system, one aware of multiple inputs and multiple users, which can map a separate set of inputs (keyboard, mice, remotes, game controllers) to each user and each screen.

Imagine the possibilities of a fully configurable I/O environment where a computer can support many keyboards, mice, and free-motion controllers. Dad can be in the den playing Tom Clancy’s Hawks (against his son) while his daughter is doing homework in her room and mom is managing finances in the office, all on the same, centrally managed PC. You can think of this model as multiple, simultaneous instances of single-session | single-person | single screen. The central computer would be capable of juggling multiple user sessions, multiple screens, and multiple input / output peripherals throughout the home.

I believe that we are on an inevitable path toward Crowd Computing. Many people, computing together, using many screens in many rooms with uniform and easy access to their user-settings, information, applications and powerful compute resources. The multi-monitor capability provided by ATI Eyefinity is an important piece of the puzzle, a powerful display adapter which can extend the computer to multiple separate displays in multiple positions or nearby locations.


To bind a digital nexus to screens throughout the home, I envisioned a single, unified cable connecting many displays throughout the home. I believed that the early candidates were DisplayPort 1.2 in 2012 and today a dual CAT5 solution employing long-run HDMI conversion and USB extension. Surprise, surprise. Looks like I am not the only one who has thought about this. But these guys figured you need to be able to go 100 meters.


And the cable ought to be thin and durable. And Optical. And they may be right. Intel Light Peek is indeed one cable which might rule them all. Making it a standard will be harder than climbing Everest. Many competing standards, and copper keeps getting better. For example, you can now port 1080p on a single CAT5/6 with Atlona’s single CAT5 1080p HDMI extender. And DisplayPort 1.2 builds on an existing standard and promises a similar combination of USB data and HD audio and video on a single cable.

The challenge this solution and DisplayPort 1.2 aim to resolve is the combination of HD video/audio and I/O via USB over a single cable that can stretch the PC experience throughout the home. DisplayPort has the lead in my book with a nice and growing installed base and an improving cost structure. It’s also copper, which has won similar battles over fibre in the consumer space just about every time.

As I have said elsewhere, enabling the use cases associated with this topology happens to require a multi-session OS with highly configurable multi I/O. Intel may say this is to get rid of wire clutter for laptop docking. My pajamas. You don’t need a hundred meters of fibre to dock your laptop. This cable is purpose made to wire the digital home and put a PC at the center of it. Period.

So my challenge now is that I have gone from finding the central home computing hypothesis appealing and plausible to finding it likely and potentially innevitable. Prevailing views that follow the trendline of the digitally networked and gadget infested home, our Gordeon’s Knot, simply don’t jive with this world view and you will make yourself unpopular at this year’s CES if you dwell too long.

I am very surprised by the rapid progress in the past two weeks toward the model, with the revelation of ATI Eyefinity, which is really an architectural and software solution to multi-monitor/audio, and now the revelation of Intel’s Light Peak, supporting long run video/video plus USB (or USB-like) based control. Now, I am certain that I am not the only one jumping up and down, saying to myself, it has begun. A few players had aces up their sleeves that are now flipped up and on the table.

The race is on. The question is, who’s heard the starting gun.
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