Tech Leaders Seek Computer Efficiency

A group of technology industry leaders is hoping to produce computers that get better mileage on the information highway.

The effort toward a more energy efficient computer is being led by high-tech giants Intel and Google. Intel's Bill Calder says that by streamlining components within the computer, designers could save a lot of electricity that is now wasted as heat.

"The power that comes from the wall today to your computer, about 50 percent of that power is lost before it ever reaches the motherboard," Calder says.

Backers of the initiative hope to steer computer buyers to more energy efficient models, much as the government's Energy Star program does with air conditioners and home appliances. Personal computer power supplies, for example, would have to be 90 percent efficient within three years to win the group's endorsement.

The group is also promoting the use of software to better manage computers' power consumption. Many computers already come with power-saving features that let them go into a sleep mode when not in use, much like a hybrid car that shuts down at stoplights.

Google's Bill Weihl says that while some laptop users rely on these power settings to prolong battery life, few people think to use them on their desktop computers.

"By using power management features you can have your computer use much, much less energy when you're not actively using it, which, in fact, is most of the time, even when you're sitting there reading stuff on the screen or typing," Weihl says. "It could use much less energy than it does."

Backers believe by 2010 their efficiency drive could save billions of dollars in annual energy costs — taking the greenhouse gas equivalent of 11 million cars off the road.

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