Where is the next big frontier of technology? According to Craig Mundie, the head of Microsoft’s US$7 billion research and development (R&D) department, it is in parallel computing. The ability to let computers run faster by dividing up the job over multiple microprocessors instead of accomplishing one task at a time with a single processor is touted to be the latest tsunami in the IT world.

While multi-core chips have been used, parallel computing is expected to lead to other major changes in the industry. Intel Corp and Advanced Micro Devices Inc have already assembled as many as four processors in a single chip. The core-chip is speculated to reach 1000 in about six years’ time. This technology arises out of necessity when processor speeds heated up and ran into power limitations.

The man who took over from Bill Gates in 2006 is weighed down with a lot of pressure. Craig has over 800 PhD researchers, some of the best brains in the world, working under him. While research is carried out on touch-screen computer, simultaneous translation and other latest breakthroughs in technology, the race for results in parallel computing is in full swing.

Another challenge is of course to write software to divide computer processes into chunks that can multi-task rather than completing tasks on a linear, one-task-at-a-time method. A new programming language is called for which could revolutionise the way every piece of software is written. While email has changed the way the Internet is viewed, parallel computing may change the way computers work in teh future and how we use them for work and play.

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