Vista affects the environment

Johannesburg, 13 Aug 2008

Microsoft Windows Vista has rendered 50% of the world's computers obsolete.

This is according to Sun Microsystems EMEA regional marketing director Mike Schroeder, speaking at ITWeb's Green IT forum, in Bryanston, yesterday.

He said millions of Microsoft customers were forced to upgrade machines to run the new operating system, which requires much higher specifications.

"With millions of computers becoming obsolete, and landfills being filled with millions of toxic chemicals, governments are starting to take an interest."

According to Schroeder, when industry cannot regulate itself, regulators will step in and do it for them. It has happened in the UK, the US and is beginning to happen in SA.

He said the European Union Commission report explicitly discusses IT waste and its impact on the environment.

However, he noted that companies are starting to take responsibility. "Around 65% of computer equipment is remanufactured and the rest is recycled."

Dirty shame

Schroeder explained that a PC contains hundreds of toxic chemicals, which - in uncontrolled landfills - could affect the drinking water of nearby communities. "There are 700 compounds used to build a PC and in 2006, 170 million PCs were disposed of," he added.

To build a fridge, manufacturers will need twice the weight of the device in raw materials to build it. Whereas to build a computer, manufacturers need 100 times the weight of the PC in raw materials, he said.

"To create a sustainable IT industry, we need to reduce the use of raw materials by 50% and soon," Schroeder added. He said creating nano-scale devices could be one possible option. However, he believes innovation will be the key to reducing IT's impact on the environment.

"We need to decouple economic growth from the consumption of natural resources and build a service-based economy."

To do this, the open source community can help innovate new ways of creating these services, he pointed out.

We need to come up with a new approach on data centre design, which completely rethinks the way it is developed, continued Schroeder.

"We need more flexible designs with adaptable cooling systems to allow us to maximise the cooling effects in the space. To get this right, we need design teams who can understand both architecture and IT."

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