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The Spectre silver lining

Customers looking to ensure that their processors are secure could opt for a fresh CPU and that could be a benefit for the hardware channel

The silver lining for those wondering how the Meltdown and Spectre chip flaw issues will leave the industry is that those selling hardware should get to enjoy a few years of stronger sales as customers move to fresh systems.

Although there are steps that customers can take to increase protection against the flaws found in some microprocessors the long term solution for those dealing with the Spectre problem will involve moving to a new chip that is totally secure.

"Paradoxically, without the intervention of regulatory bodies or legal action, we’ll all have to spend more to replace our affected processors as soon as non-vulnerable options are available," stated a Forrester paper on the chip flaws.

"The only silver lining? If manufacturers find a way to secure speculative execution features so that the performance gains it offers don’t suffer from the security hole it creates today, they can promise a faster chip that is, in fact, more secure than the one we currently use," added the analyst paper.

The timing of the Meltdown and Spectre problems comes at  a moment when the corporate PC market has enjoyed one of its best years for quite a while and plenty of users are already taking steps to upgrade hardware as part of wider digital transformation projects.

The latest problems have emerged at a point when the Windows 10 effect has largely worn off as a reason to prod users into upgrading.

In the short-term for those looking to deal with the current problems with existing hardware the advice from Forrester is to patch on-premise systems and cloud workloads. It’s also a good idea to discover the patch level status of technology partners.

The other steps that can be taken now include taking advantage of the monitoring tools that are coming out from the likes of Microsoft in the wake of the security flaws.

Mark Papermaster, senior vice president and CTO at AMD, issued a statement indicating that it believed the problems could be stemmed with patches.

“We believe [Spectre] can be contained with an operating system (OS) patch and we have been working with OS providers to address this issue,” he said.

Just days after the chip flaws became public IDC pulled together its analysis of PC sales in the fourth quarter. The analyst house reported a 0.7% increase in worldwide shipments.

Commercial demand was one of the main factors in helping the year end in the black as was a shift back to the laptop market in the face of ongoing tablet declines.

"The fourth quarter results showed some potentially encouraging headway against the difficult environment in retail and consumer PCs," said Jay Chou, research manager with IDC's Personal Computing Device Tracker. "Enticed by a growing array of products that promise all-day battery life, high portability, and address emerging use cases that require more compute power, pockets of the consumer base are taking a serious look at these revamped PCs. However, the overall PC market remains a challenging one."

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