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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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Why 32bits?
By Hapikern on 1/22/2009 3:13:51 AM , Rating: 2
Why still making 32bits OS's if 64bits have been out since some years and it runs every 32bits software out?... if it's for driver compatibility, well... hardware manufacturers should have started working in those drivers since years... get your lazy asses to work!

RE: Why 32bits?
By StevoLincolnite on 1/22/2009 4:50:30 AM , Rating: 2
It could be a processor problem, there are Plenty of people still hanging onto the Pentium 4's, Athlon XP and plenty of notebooks with a Pentium 4 M or a Pentium M which are 32 bit processors only.

RE: Why 32bits?
By fishman on 1/22/2009 6:42:26 AM , Rating: 2
Few people with older systems would upgrade them to windows 7, so an exclusive 64 bit release wouldn't have much effect.

RE: Why 32bits?
By Master Kenobi on 1/22/2009 7:10:50 AM , Rating: 1
Pentium 4's of the Socket 775 line were all 64-bit capable.

RE: Why 32bits?
By noirsoft on 1/22/09, Rating: -1
RE: Why 32bits?
By FITCamaro on 1/22/2009 9:12:35 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah well personally, I would rather Windows 7 have been native 64-bit. If you're still running an old heat factory socket 478 Pentium IV, you can stick with Vista or XP.

RE: Why 32bits?
By tasdk on 1/25/2009 2:48:48 AM , Rating: 2
The x64 version of Windows 7 is native 64-bit, and so are the x64 versions of Vista and even XP.

Right now there are two ports of Windows, the 32-bit x86 port and the 64-bit x64 port. The question is whether or not the x86 port should be dropped the way that the MIPS, Alpha and PowerPC ports were dropped back in the 90s, when it became clear that x86 had won the 32-bit CPU wars (and that Alpha wasn't going to win in the 64-bit market).

I'd like to see the x86 port of Windows 7 disappear, but realistically, there is still a business case for offering it, so I can understand why Microsoft aren't going to do that.

RE: Why 32bits?
By Merry on 1/22/2009 9:42:28 AM , Rating: 2
people still hanging onto the Pentium 4's, Athlon XP and plenty of notebooks with a Pentium 4 M or a Pentium M which are 32 bit processors only.

Yes. I'm one of them!

I'm quite impressed with Windows 7 on my Pentium M laptop (1gig RAM, 100gig HDD Ati X700), its quite snappy, indeed its comparable with the Ubuntu installation I dual boot with in terms of 'clicking around' speed.

Saying that, though, having used Linux for 2 years now, I find parts of the UI unintuitive and, something that made me smile, my Intel wireless adaptor didnt work out of the box, nor did my ATI graphics card, or fingerprint scanner (i'll forgive it for that). I know its a beta but, given the criticisms leveled at Linux (specifically Ubuntu in my case) it did make me chuckle.

I think MS is right in releasing both 32 and 64 bit versions of 7 before moving solely on to 64bit. Particularly given that 7 appears to run well on older hardware.

RE: Why 32bits?
By FITCamaro on 1/22/2009 8:19:43 AM , Rating: 2
Because many legacy applications may be 32-bit apps but they may use some 16-bit code.

RE: Why 32bits?
By TomZ on 1/22/2009 8:29:02 AM , Rating: 1
hardware manufacturers should have started working in those drivers since years
Because there is no business case for hardware manufacturers to go back and release 64-bit drivers for older hardware.

Actually the situation is the opposite - by failing to provide 64-bit for older hardware, hardware manufacturers are encouraging re-purchase of newer hardware for which 64-bit drivers have been developed. Good for them profit-wise, but maybe not so good for consumers.

Microsoft recognized this a while back and made 64-bit drivers a requirement in order to for a driver to be certified Vista compatible.

RE: Why 32bits?
By SlyNine on 1/23/2009 6:18:36 AM , Rating: 2
Then Joe consumer feeling shafted buys someone else stuff thus business lose consumer trust and- consumers.

Thus capitalism is working.

RE: Why 32bits?
By Motley on 2/3/2009 9:08:36 PM , Rating: 2
That is correct, and I have had this happen. Then I toss that piece of hardware away, and I buy a new one from a different company. I refuse to buy hardware from companies that fail to support their products.

RE: Why 32bits?
By rburnham on 1/22/2009 9:21:43 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Why 32bits?
By therealnickdanger on 1/22/2009 10:04:39 AM , Rating: 2
Whats ares yous talkings abouts, Tokies?

RE: Why 32bits?
By mmntech on 1/22/2009 10:16:21 AM , Rating: 3
The reason is more economics than anything else. The corporate market is probably the largest consumer of Microsoft products. The reason 32-bit was kept was to entice businesses to upgrade to Windows 7, since many work stations still use older, cheaper 32-bit processors. It's vary expensive to replace computer hardware on a mass scale. The reason Vista failed in the business world was because it's requirements were too high. This was why Windows 7, with its streamlined code, was created in the first place

Also, the Intel Atom N270 is a 32-bit processor. Microsoft wants to discontinue XP but they still want their chunk of the lucrative netbook market. It would be stupid to make an OS that wasn't compatible with 90% of those systems. I'm not sure if Pineview will support x86-64 or not.

RE: Why 32bits?
By The0ne on 1/22/2009 1:00:29 PM , Rating: 2
You don't have the driver and application support to be successful mainstream. Server side that's ok but that's not your money maker for a lot of companies. We had 64bit CPU's for some time now and how many applications have been fully converted to 64bit? Don't get me wrong I want 64bit and higher because then technical applications can actually benefit from them. But if the application and drivers don't change you're not going to get many benefits from having a 64bit CPU or OS.

I really do wish tech apps would catch up. I haven't checked lately but SolidWorks is still not Vista compatible? This is what I mean. Can't be like Adobe I guess :)

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