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Watt's happening? Tech tackles energy consumption

AMD's Phil Hester sees plenty of green at CES.

Green is big here at CES 2008, and I'm not just talking about the kiwi-colored gadgets and lime-green LED gizmos. For years, the tech industry pushed performance with little consideration for environmental and economic consequences. No more; the awakening on this issue as expressed in power-efficient device designs and the accompanying product messages at the show are unavoidable.

This decade the industry accelerated its focus on decreasing the energy consumption even of high-performance consumer devices and PCs. As more and more always-on technology integrates into our homes and offices, we've made a targeted effort to make superior efficiency as much a priority as a superior consumer experience. Many companies are aggressively citing the energy consumption of devices, and there's considerable dialog about meeting new generations of Energy Star-type standards.

* Energy saving HD LED and OLED TVs from Samsung and Sony promise reduced energy use and heat emission.

* Panasonic also demoed prototype plasma display panels (PDPs) that stand to cut energy consumption in half without sacrificing brightness.

* Total energy consumption is also becoming a more important factor in consumer buying habits and we're seeing more Energy Star stickers here on the CES show floor.

* Many companies also promoted solar energy solutions for powering handheld devices and eco-friendly packaging for CE gadgets and accessories.

* GM made its debut at CES with the Cadillac Provoq concept car that is projected to go 300 miles on a tank of hydrogen and a fuel cell. Not too shabby.

As an industry, we're headed in the right direction but still have work to do to reduce the energy burden of technology. Will energy efficiency become as dominant a discussion at a future CES, just as "Full HD" is this year? I hope so.

Phil Hester is senior vice president and chief technology officer at AMD, responsible for setting the architectural and product strategies and plans for AMD's microprocessor business.