As Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates touts the benefits of the companys Windows 64-bit server and client software at this weeks annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, many in the hardware industry are also keen to see how quickly the 64-bit bandwagon can roll.
But just because they build it does not mean that customers will come. At least not right away.
The hardware transition from 32-bit to 64-bit systems will not be the same for consumers as it will be for large enterprises, with many eagerly signing on for a 64-bit experience in the near future, according to several analysts. Rather, main market segments will see varying levels of adoption and will be urged toward 64-bit systems by different market drivers.
For large enterprises, the shift to 64-bit hardware should be fairly painless, since many are already running some 64-bit systems, said William Hurley, an analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group.
“In the enterprise space, since they already have 64-bit hardware, theyll be looking more for standards-based environments and improving the cost of acquisition,” Hurley said. Enterprises also will embrace hardware that provides a loosely coupled relationship to software and that can access larger amounts of data.
For the enterprise segment, virtualization will be the key driver, Hurley added. “Theyre going to look for systems that are more robust and allow for consolidation of older, legacy applications.”
In the midmarket, where the SMBs (small and midsized businesses) live, adoption will be driven by the effectiveness of ISVs, Hurley said. If Microsoft Corp. can encourage ISVs to step up development and bring more 64-bit applications to life, then hardware purchases will follow.
In general, it is likely that SMB transitions will be much slower than what is seen at the enterprise level, said Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC. “Theyll adopt it as it makes sense,” he said. “This means it will be a transition that goes on for years, with more SMBs adopting it. There wont be a huge shift right away.”
Consumers could prove to take even longer to go with 64-bit systems and are likely to be the last segment for widespread adoption, unless they are gamers or technology hobbyists.
“When the average PC becomes 64-bit driven, then consumers will be using that hardware,” Gillen said. “Until then, theyll happily continue buying 32-bit systems.”
Ultimately, a recent report from Gartner Inc. noted, hardware transitions in all market segments will come only as a result of application selection processes. A recent report advised the companys clients to find the right balance between the best choice of server for a given application and the number of supportable platforms maintained in the computing infrastructure.
Gillen added that this focus on applications first and hardware second will be especially true in the SMB and consumer markets, where customers tend to buy hardware and software for specific tasks rather than merely to upgrade their systems.
“For the average office worker and consumer, theyll see 64-bit hardware when they really need it,” he said. “But not until then.”