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Sales are perking up for 64-bit after years of dominance by 32-bit OS's

The hottest buzz in the tech industry in 2003 was 64-bit hardware and operating systems. That year the industry seemed on the verge of a computer revolution.  Then AMD CEO Hector Ruiz stated, "Our industry, right now, is hungry for another round of innovation."

AMD released its first 64-bit processors that year.  While sales were decent, there was no consumer 64-bit operating system to take advantage of the hardware.  Then finally in 2005, Microsoft released Windows XP in 64-bit form.  Yet again the 64-bit industry seemed set to explode.

The release was met with much criticism, though.  Part of the problem was necessity -- even in 2005 the average user did not need more than 2 GB, in most circumstances.  Another major hitch was driver support.  All drivers had to be rewritten to work with the new width.

Despite these difficulties, three years later, for the first time, the 64-bit industry is at last healthy and growing.  With virtually all new processors from Intel and AMD supporting 64-bit, 64-bit OS's are flourishing as well. 

In a recent blog, Microsoft's Chris Flores reported that 20 percent of new Windows systems connecting to Windows Update were 64-bit.  This is up from a mere 3 percent in March.  He stated, "Put more simply, usage of 64-bit Windows Vista is growing much more rapidly than 32-bit.  Based on current trends, this growth will accelerate as the retail channel shifts to supplying a rapidly increasing assortment of 64-bit desktops and laptops."

Retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City are also catching on to the trend, offering largely 64-bit OS-equipped machines for their most heavily advertised models.  Many manufacturers are also throwing in their support; Gateway will be transitioning its entire desktop line to 64-bit in time for the back-to-school shopping season.  To put this in perspective, in its first quarter, only 5 percent of Gateway's notebooks and desktops were 64-bit.  In its third quarter, a whopping 95 percent of desktops will be 64-bit and 30 percent of notebooks will be.

Aside from the increased memory, one other possible cause for adoption is the increased availability of software that takes advantage of the increased capacity.  Adobe's various graphical design product lines have been revamped for 64-bit.  Another drive may be gaming, which is typically memory hungry. "64-bit versions of Windows will begin to find their way into high-end gaming notebooks, which increasingly are being used as high-end notebook workstations as opposed to strictly gaming systems," said IDC analyst Richard Shim.

Finally, it may just be inevitability that is helping 64-bit.  While the upgrade will only provide subtle benefits to the majority of users, even power users, it is an iterative advance.  And like most advances, after a period of reticence, people are finally warming up to it.

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By mindless1 on 8/4/2008 1:03:57 PM , Rating: 3
I suspect the article has it backwards, it is not that there is some trend that the retail stores and OEMs are catching onto, it is that they are the trend, they are mostly responsible for increasing use of 64bit systems.

Remember the average buyer buys a ready-built system with OS preinstalled. To many of them XP vs Vista is a more significant choice than 32 vs 64 bit. The lower cost of memory today certainly didn't hurt, with 4GB memory so cheap it does make sense to go 64bit if your software/drivers accomdate it, but at the same time there are inevitably some people finding they need 32bit OS more than the half gig or so memory they'd lose if buying a 32bit machine with 4GB installed.

Regardless, it is a needed change in the industry to keep moving forward.

RE: Backwards?
By anotherdude on 8/4/2008 2:49:21 PM , Rating: 2
As a hardware/gaming board regular for many years I can tell you that without doubt the move to Vista 64 is a very hot item for hobbyists/enthusiasts and has been for over a year - this is a big time homebuilt trend and that much of it at least has nothing to do with OEMs. Of course the OEMs making it available has a lot to do with it getting mainstream but I think they are more responding to a trend/need than creating one.

RE: Backwards?
By mindless1 on 8/5/2008 4:42:22 PM , Rating: 2
We enthusiasts are a small minority of the market. No matter how desirable it is for us, let's face the fact that the average person isn't putting over 4GB of memory to use, doesn't know how 64 vs 32 bit will impact them. They may not even know if their prior system was 32 or 64 bit, BUT OEMs like the option of being able to offer systems with more than 4GB installed (making a healthy profit on the memory upgrade of course). The OEMs can do this because they have volume buying power to get a good price on select supportive hardware.

The OEMs don't need to respond to what someone who builds their own and picks their own OS wants, because those are generally the people who aren't buying the OEM systems.

RE: Backwards?
By Flunk on 8/4/2008 3:41:22 PM , Rating: 3
I don't think that people who buy systems off the shelf even have a Vista vs XP choice anymore. In retail XP is essentialy dead. But you have a point I don't think that those people care about 32/64 bit and I would be willing to wager than most of them have no idea what the different is. 64 is bigger than 32 right? Must be better then!

RE: Backwards?
By mindless1 on 8/5/2008 4:47:10 PM , Rating: 2
Depends on how you define the "shelf". OEMs are still offering it, for example:

I do agree, people will think bigger number = better if they have no other info, and will most likely be weighing all the other variables in system selection far more heavily, like how much memory vs. system bundle they want to pay for, with the expectation that whether it be XP or Vista, that it would support that amount of memory. IOW, I doubt most would realize when they purchased a system that if they were allowed to pick 8GB memory on 32bit OS, that it could be a problem. Some of them might not ever realize the problem if they were allowed such a choice and bought a system configured like that.

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