64-bit Windows is becoming more common and will eventually be the norm. Such transitions never go as smoothly as you'd like.
Everyone, even Microsoft, is openly talking about Windows 7. I think
that there will be a 32-bit edition of Windows 7, but I also think it
may be the last such version of Windows, And I wouldn't be surprised if
Microsoft takes steps in it to encourage adoption of 64-bit Windows,
moving us further on the path to a Windows 8, which may be entirely
There's a rule about Windows that most people never seem to
appreciate fully: Every new version of Windows is designed for the next
generation of hardware. When users upgrade XP to Vista on circa-2004
hardware and declare it sucky, they miss the point. This same effect is
true of other operating systems to varying degrees; certainly it's true
of MacOS, where they get to coordinate even more tightly. It's less
true, I suppose, with Unix and variants because there's less of a
partnership with hardware vendors.
A related important point about the cross-generational period is
that upgrades just don't work as well as most preloaded installations.
OEMs, at least in theory, can put a lot of work into getting their
preloaded Windows and drivers to work optimally, while a user upgrading
a previous version is likely to encounter tasks, identifying not only
what should be running on the system but what should not, which they
will have difficulty performing optimally.
The transition period, in which the mainstream shifts from 32-bit to
64-bit, is fraught with peril for Microsoft and users. There are many
ways it can go badly. Microsoft has already tipped one of them in this blog by Windows exec Chris Flores
Essentially, it's the same hardware transition problem I just
mentioned: Users trying to do an upgrade themselves may lack the
technical experience and the detailed information about the hardware.
He strongly recommends buying a preloaded system. OEMs aren't perfect
at this; consider this blog in which Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Michael Fortin gives one example of suboptimal configuration by an OEM
, although the data is limited to system boot time performance.
Microsoft has a 64-bit computing site for servers
, but I can't find a similar one for desktops. There are individual pages for 64-bit Windows XP
64-bit Windows may seem like a far-out techie luxury to most of us,
but Microsoft already has quite a lot of experience with it: There have
already been two 64-bit versions of Windows desktop and server.
Remember, most of the core of the OS and much of the higher-level bits
are common to both, and 64-bit Windows Server is a heavily used
operating system. In fact, Microsoft has already announced that Windows Server 2008 will be the last Windows Server version with a 32-bit edition
When the mainstream desktop moves to 64 bits, it will, in many ways, be
Version 3 or 4 of Windows 64.
Nothing ever seems to substitute for a
mass public test, but it's not like they will be rookies at it. And
according to the same Flores blog, the number and percentage of 64-bit
Vista systems are jumping substantially worldwide, and even more
ZDNet's Ed Bott extrapolates from Flores' numbers
that "... at least 20% of all Vista PCs sold in the second quarter of
this year came with 64-bit editions of Windows Vista pre-installed. By
fall, it's possible, even likely, that we'll reach a tipping point,
with more than 50% of new PCs sold at retail coming with 64-bit
editions of Windows Vista pre-installed."