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Microsoft Says Tipping Point Already Reached

According to a source inside Microsoft, over 25 percent of Vista installations in the US at the end of last year were 64-bit. There were several major drivers for the switch to 64-bit, most related to cheap DDR2 DRAM.

Jon DeVaan, Senior Vice-President of the Windows Core Operating System Division, agrees. "From our point of view we believe that we have accomplished the tipping point in terms of 64-bit adoption. Now, this happened to a large degree because memory prices are coming down, and another dynamic that we've seen in the United States is that the retail channel is looking to use RAM upgrades as a way to boost margin. So what that means is that 64-bit machine run rate is increasing rapidly, and that means our ability to support those 64-bit machines fully in the broad ecosystem is a really important thing."

Any PC with 4GB of RAM or more must use a 64-bit installation of Windows in order to address the full amount of RAM. Typically a 32-bit installation would recognize a maximum of 3-3.5GB of RAM.

Instead of purchasing a 32-bit version and then having to change to 64-bit later when they purchase more RAM, many are choosing 64-bit at the start. Over 75 percent of Windows sales are based on OEM installations of new computers.

The majority of Core i7 platforms are also using 64-bit operating systems, due to the triple channel memory setup using more RAM.

If you bought Windows Vista as a retail packaged product, Microsoft offers a free 64-bit upgrade DVD for the cost of shipping and handling. The upgrade will be a full clean installation over the 32-bit version. Windows Vista Ultimate already includes 32-bit and 64-bit versions on the DVD.

Many OEMs also provide a free or low cost option to switch to 64-bit Vista.

Windows 7 is expected to be the last to natively run at 32-bits. The next major Windows revision after it will be 64-bit native, running 32-bit applications through the use of a compatibility layer.

Windows Server 2008 R2, the server version of Windows 7, is already exclusively 64-bit.

With the switch to Windows 7, it would be easiest for PC OEMs to adopt 64-bit exclusively. That would reduce the number of SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) and drivers that would be needed by half, not an insignificant number when you consider that Windows 7 will ship in at least 4 editions. Multiply that by at least 34 localized language versions.

Additionally, the price premium of DDR3 will drop significantly as 50nm production kicks in. DDR3 is the memory of choice for AMD's CPUs using the AM3 socket, as well as Intel's Core i7 and Core i5 (Lynnfield). Due to lower power consumption, DDR3 adoption on laptops is progressing rapidly as well.

"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," said Chris Flores, a Director on the Windows Client Communications Team.

Since 64-bit Vista and Windows 7 can run 32-bit applications, the last remaining hurdle is driver compatibility. Many new devices now have 64-bit device drivers available for Vista, and those should be mostly compatible with Windows 7.

An important tool is the Windows Vista Compatibility Center. Devann thinks that 64-bit support will drive sales: "They can go here and look at 64-bit compatibility, and with the trend that we just saw this is a good place for communicating with your customers about your support for 64-bit, so that they can prefer your product if they have one of these 64-bit systems".

Devann addressed the crowd at WinHEC with the following message, "I urge everyone here to make sure that you have the right 64-bit support, and in general 32-bit software runs fine on 64-bit Windows, but when it comes to drivers, that's where the work is. And with this audience, it's something that we're all acutely aware."

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It should be 64bit only
By mkruer on 1/22/2009 12:56:37 AM , Rating: 5
Anyone else get the feeling that Microsoft should drop 32bit all together, and say from now on Windows 7 will be 64bit only. 64bit processors have been out for a while now, and I would argue that most consumer who are willing to upgrade already have a system that meets the 64bit requirements, and any new system sold will have a 64bit processor anyway. Even the Intel’s Atom is 64bit

MS should just kill off the 32bit and place all the QA and coder into making the 64bit version work better, and be comfortable in the knowledge that any system that any system that can’t run 64bit is not worth installing window 7 anyway, and that those system will eventually disappear sooner than later.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By Einy0 on 1/22/2009 1:46:10 AM , Rating: 2
The lower power envelope variations of the atom do not have 64bit support. Probably software disabled though, maybe hardware. Resistor or something external to disable it. If MS didn't screw up so bad with Vista as far as resources hunger goes I'd say yes, Win7 64bit only. Now they are trying to make up for the shortcomings of Vista while still moving forward. ie away from XP... Netbooks are all the rage and Ms wants their new os on them. Not only running but running smoothly. Maybe the next windows will be 64bit only. You can probably blame the 32 and 64 versions on intel for not fully embracing x64. Perhaps for not embracing x64 sooner. There are tons of very decent pcs out there still running x32 only. I'll be running x64 Windows 7 for sure. BTW Beta 1 runs amazingly well on 2GB of ram. I know, no advantage to it but who cares. Let's move forward... x64 here to stay...

RE: It should be 64bit only
By B3an on 1/22/2009 2:00:19 AM , Rating: 4
If MS just did Win7 64-Bit your'd get all the cavemen moaning that it will not run on there system. Just like with the morons that tried to install Vista on hardware that was obviously not capable, and then got angry about it.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By Bateluer on 1/22/2009 8:33:31 AM , Rating: 3
These cavemen are going to piss and moan regardless. They've moaned when MS released their first GUI Windows OS, they moaned with the release of Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP, and lord, we all know how they moaned with Vista. They'll moan with 7 when its released as well. The positive view of Windows 7 now comes from enthusiasts and tech oriented people running the betas, not the general public who gets confused when things like 'My Computer' is renamed to 'Computer'.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By mindless1 on 1/22/2009 10:56:14 AM , Rating: 2
and yet, the cavemen manage to do all the same work on a computer as those who insist more than 4GB of memory is important.

64bit is definitely the future, but a push or abandonment of 32bit when the vast majority of the world is currently using a 32bit OS with no need for more, would be foolish.

As always before, this is a transition period and that means supporting both. Don't ever pretend you are somehow less caveman like if you run 64bit, an intelligent person can use any tech placed in front of them without whining about what doesn't work and a need for change.

I'll bet you think it's necessary to have 8GB of memory and 64bit OS to do basic tasks people were doing with 512MB for years. Don't kid yourself, it is not memory address space that is a problem it is the programmers and users at this point.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By The0ne on 1/22/2009 1:07:42 PM , Rating: 2
I will have to agree. Most users, even hardcore enthusiast, encountered doesn't even use 4Gig or more memory. Even with pre-caching programs and applications that doesn't really mean they're using them all the time.

Now some users and enthusiasts doing technical work and what not will benefit from the increase in memory, ala 64bit OS and apps.

And if you're ever in the service department you know there are still a lot of users out there that still rely on 16bit/32bit apps. Most likely your city council is still using old voting systems, typewriters, PCs, etc :) You can't force some of the baby boomers to change :)

RE: It should be 64bit only
By SlyNine on 1/23/2009 6:11:35 AM , Rating: 2
Yea but those people who are not enthusiasts will probably want to stick with there computer for a while.

Down the road they may need more then 2gigs of ram and since they don't upgrade much support for more then 2gigs might be even more important because they wont even understand why they cannot just slap 2 more gigs of ram in there system and they'll think, wtf is 32bit and 64 bit.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By Chaser on 1/22/2009 1:09:27 PM , Rating: 2
I think the "caveman" term is a bit extreme especially when it comes to 64 bit. Many users don't embrace computer hardware and software technological advances like most readers of Daily Tech do. Some "cavemen" are very intimidated by computers just as others could be by car engines, operating rooms or sewage plants.

To many people rocking the boat can be as simple as changing their desktop layout. They see a computer as a necessary part of their job and at times as annoying as their occasionally arrogant or grouchy boss.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By finalfan on 1/22/2009 3:42:32 AM , Rating: 2
At least to me it will be difficult. My Canon EOS doesn't have a Vista 64 driver and there is no 64 bit Cisco VPN client either. If the shift really happens it may force the vendors to be less lazy. We will see.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By SlyNine on 1/23/2009 6:13:39 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe if there were no 32bit vista or Windows 7 versions someone would get off their ass and produce 64bit variants.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By Motley on 2/3/2009 9:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
There is VPN clients that support 64-bit and work with Cisco routers. If nothing else, use the built-in IPSEC client.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By TomZ on 1/22/2009 8:35:10 AM , Rating: 1
Anyone else get the feeling that Microsoft should drop 32bit all together
No, it is too soon for that. There is simply too much hardware out there that lacks 64-bit driver support.

For example, I purchased an Inspiron 1720 less than 2 years ago. Even though the processor is 64-bit capable, Dell doesn't provide any support (drivers) for 64-bit. None at all.

Win7 64-bit might work on that machine, but then I probably wouldn't be able to use some of the integrated devices because of missing drivers. So in this case, I'll be stuck with 32-bit until I replace the laptop.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By FITCamaro on 1/22/2009 9:13:43 AM , Rating: 2
So just keep the OS already on it?

RE: It should be 64bit only
By TomZ on 1/22/2009 2:59:58 PM , Rating: 2
That would deprive me of the benefits of Windows 7, and it would deprive Microsoft of the revenue associated with my upgrade. Sounds like a lose-lose situation.

And besides, the reason Microsoft is maintaining 32-bit support has more to do with wanting to be able to efficiently run on low-end processors such as those in netbooks, more than the upgrade market. The upgrade market certainly is significant, but it is small compared to the potential to run Windows 7 32-bit in emerging markets. That's the real goal.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By KITH on 1/22/2009 3:09:26 PM , Rating: 2
You make a very good and I imagine, valid, point.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By Fritzr on 1/26/2009 11:46:00 PM , Rating: 2
Second solution to the lack of 64bit support ... add a compatibility feature to 64bit Windows to allow use of 32bit drivers. The main need would be to ensure they are always loaded into the 32bit address space.

Win95/98 did this and a got a lot of criticism for being flaky due to badly written 16bit drivers and legacy 16bit modules that continued to be used by the new 32bit OSes.

One of the 'features' of XP was the removal of 16bit code and the addition of 'compatibility mode' to allow older software to contine to run in spite of required modules having been modified or removed.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By johnsonx on 1/23/2009 3:06:51 AM , Rating: 2
On one hand I agree with the notion that Windows 7 should be 64-bit only. It does seem a good time, now that 64-bit processors are nearly ubiquitous.

However, many people underestimate the amount of software out there that just won't run on 64-bit windows. It isn't just hardware drivers that have to be 64-bit, it's any sort of driver at all (you'd be surprised how many programs use some sort of driver). I have several programs I depend on that won't work with 64-bit windows because of this.

Also, don't forget that 64-bit mode also eliminates 16-bit software compatibility as well. The business and corporate environment tends to depend on many older applications that might break on a 64-bit OS. For example, I have a client who needs to keep an old version of Autocad running for various reasons... but it can't be installed on any of the new Vista 64 boxes because the installer is 16-bit.

So, if the plan is to have Windows 7 be the final 32-bit Windows, with strong emphasis on the 64-bit version, then that's probably a reasonable compromise.

RE: It should be 64bit only
By Darkskypoet on 1/24/2009 8:14:01 PM , Rating: 2
Do what the rest of us with Brand new 4-8-12 GB of ram systems with a stupid crap load of resources, and multi core processors do... Run that prog in a VM...

I have run into the same problem with my clients who have no need to upgrade a $20k accounting prog because it does exactly what they want it to do. I run it in a VM. It's far cheaper to run a vm in the Vmware player, and buy a couple licenses for constructing the image and testing, etc. Plus the roll out is uber simple.

So now, they have a little vm running win2k on top of their XP64, or Vista 64 systems that due to advances in the industry, are already more machine they really utilize.

Problem solved, client happy, no worries about both maintaining compatibility, and moving forward.

I would imagine, that since all server and desktop OS's from MS are now from the same code base (for each individual main version of course ; Xp64 = Server 2003, 2K = Server 2k, 2008 = vista, etc) because of support contracts, and other legal requirements to continue to support certain hardware for certain clients. The increased MC of putting out a 32bit desktop version since they have to put out a 32bit server version is relatively low, and as such to not put out a desktop variant @ 32bit would be silly. I'd imagine, that there are other products that would utilize a Windows 7 code base.. (ok Vista SP3) in embedded systems, etc, that do not require 64bit, and again like net books... MS wants their current OS in.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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