The Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, which would cut the nation's electric bill through the use of energy-efficient PCs, got off to a rousing start on June 17. At least 15 PC makers unveiled models that meet Energy Star specifications, which require them to use 30 watts or less of power, rather than the 70 to 200 watts PCs now use.
But the industry-government lovefest may be shallower than it seems. That's because Energy Star didn't require much commitment from computer manufacturers. Most simply installed the power-management software that is now common in notebook models, along with a more efficient power-supply system. And PC makers were already moving to reduce power consumption anyway. The good news: Most PC makers didn't invest enough in Energy Star to warrant price increases. Cranking out energy-efficient PCs should get even easier in the future. Intel Corp. has announced that its high-end chips, starting with its 486 line, will use the power-saving technology of its SL chips, which it sells to notebook makers.