For processor manufacturers, 2003 was the best of times and the worst of times.
On the positive side, several new processor designs were introduced. Intel released the Pentium M, a chip designed specifically for notebooks, while Advanced Micro Devices countered with the Opteron and the Athlon64, which can utilize 32-bit and 64-bit software.
IBM and Sun Microsystems also agreed to sell Opteron-based servers, a crucial endorsement for AMD, which has tried for years to break into the mainstream corporate market.
IBM, meanwhile, introduced a chip that can perform similar functions for the Mac market.
A surge in PC buying, especially in developing nations, also boosted shipments after two stagnant years.
On the down side, the cost of remaining in the chip market continued to climb. As a result, makers struck alliances throughout the year to share the costs of research and the building of fabrication plants.
Additionally, Intel and AMD had to delay their first 90-nanometer chips because of complications.
Designers also proposed new ways to reduce power consumption and leakage, the inadvertent dissipation of electricity. Strained silicon went into mass production and engineers said metallic gates and triple-gate transistors are on the horizon. No one, though, knows which of these ideas will eventually work in mass production.
Alternatives to traditional silicon chips, such as processors made out of carbon nanotubes, began to gain more notice and more research funding. Still, keeping up with Moore's Law is going to be tougher and tougher, according to experts.