Windows 7/x86 not such a bad thing

There have been many comments on the Windows Seven news thread, due for release in 2010 and the decision to ship it in both 32/64 bit flavors. I read an interesting article on Computer World this morning that reminded me of the 16 to 32 bit transition, it took 10 years...

The consequence of that is that PC users had ample time to switch to the new architecture, I mean who in 2005 was still using a 486 computer? (unless it's a Linux proxy server)

"The last time around, Microsoft was gentle in moving users from 16-bit to 32-bit, taking a decade to complete the transition.

Starting with 1990's Windows 3.0 and finishing with 2000's Windows ME, Microsoft released five versions of Windows supporting both 16-bit and 32-bit. In comparison, Windows 7 will be only the third Windows version, after 64-bit XP's arrival in 2005, to sport dual 32/64-bit compatibility.

Apple Inc. has a similar hybrid strategy. Its upcoming Mac OS X 10.5, a.k.a. "Leopard," is a true 64-bit environment that will ostensibly also offer full compatibility with 32-bit applications on, for instance, older PowerPC-based Mac hardware.

Companies, especially those running esoteric or in-house-written applications, will be the happiest to hear that Windows 7 will still support 32-bit software, since it will allow them to avoid expensive rewrites if they decide to upgrade.

The number of bits determines how large the chunks of data a component of the PC can process, which determines how much data it can handle and ultimately how fast it can perform. For instance, '80s-era PCs with hybrid 8/16-bit architectures were limited to a maximum of 64KB of RAM.

In contrast, a modern PC running a 32-bit version of Windows XP can utilize up to 4GB of RAM. Meanwhile, 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Vista can support up to 128GB of physical RAM and 16TB of almost-as-fast virtual memory."

News source: Computer World

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Yes, it seems like the article is confusing having a 32-bit version of the OS with being able to run 32-bit programs. The 64-bit OS will still run 32-bit programs (except drivers).

Continuing to have a 32-bit and 64-bit version of the OS is not like when we had Windows 95 and Windows NT. Despite the fact that Windows 95 contained 16-bit code, it was basically a 32-bit operating system - as mech9t8 said, it required a 32-bit processor to run. A new 32-bit version of Windows in the current situation would correspond to a new version of Windows 3.1 during the 16 to 32 bit transition. Microsoft did not continue to make new versions of Windows 3.1 after Windows 95 and NT were out, so actually the change was quicker then than now.

Windows 95 and later were not 16-bit compatible; bits of them were mixed 16-bit/32-bit (due to using a DOS kernel instead of an NT one for compatibility and lower resource requirements) but they required a 32-bit processor.

Wrong! although Windows 95 was Microsoft's first 32 bit operating system it still had a 16 bit kernel and it allowed the running of 16 bit applications without the use of a "console" as with XP and later Operating systems. Later operating systems went "fully 32 bit" after Windows Me was released, but due to the poor programming of many of the older "backwards compatible" core components it was very very unstable. It also attempted to emulate an environment for 16 bit native applications but that was just a test bed for Windows 2000/XP which has true emulation.

Now we have "compatibility mode" which allows a program to run in 16 bit environment that is emulated within the OS.

A true 32 bit system is one you can't run the Windows 3.11 program manager on (16 bit) or any of the older programs that were common before say 1996/97.

Windows 3.11 "Program manager" was shipped with every version of Windows 9x except Windows ME when they took it out.

And here is another good reason why people will adopt 64-bit OS much faster than they did with 32-bit ones:

The 4GB RAM barrier. That's it. Majority of (okay, new) PCs are already featuring 1 - 2GB of RAM. Some people are considering buying even more. (For those, a 64-bit OS is a impending matter.) And historically the RAM capability doubles every two years. By 2009, most will buy 2 - 4GB of RAM. And I am sure by that time some will move on to 8GB or more...

Those people are the precise potential users of the new OS. Those who are satisfied with Vista or XP (still) probably have no reason to upgrade their machine (including more RAM), too because it's about their primary usage of their PCs, or in short, their software.

If users want more RAM, they will need 64-bit technology. And if users want new OSs, apparently, they will need more powerful machines.

Then what about the people who have older machines but want to upgrade to the new OS anyway which in return will run devilishly slow, not to mention it sometimes will crash? Tell them: "For your own health and longevity, stick to your OS."

I disagree. I don't think that increased RAM is a valid reason to drive x86-64 in the consumer market, yet. Granted, there are apps that would use the extra memory (i.e. scientific, math, engineering, graphics), but those don't represent the mainstream. Tell me, why would a word processor need more than 4GiB of RAM?

Another thing is that you're looking at the wrong barrier. It's the 2GiB address space limit you should be looking at (because of the OS) rather than the physical memory limit which is actually 64GiB on an x86 system (the 4GiB limit only applies to intel processors before the pentium pro).

Even though I don't think RAM should drive adoption, there are other improvements in the x86-64 extension that I think should. Most notably, the increased number of registers, both general purpose and SSE ones, and support for 64-bit general purpose registers.

Well, it can be looked at in 2 ways. At the moment, when I used Vista x64 it was a mess. Driver conflicts, manufacturers not supporting it etc. So, I'm back on XP x86 and if I move to Vista, it'll be a seriously long decision and I'll make sure that I've got all the drivers I need.

Maybe if Windows 7 was x64 only then will the manufacturers and software developers will get their act together and support x64 properly, than let it live in the crossover limbo it is in now.

I think MS should start to tell developers to start writing 64 bit code, or else they never will... sure .NET is nice with cross compatability through JIT compiling, but people need to start writing native 64bit code also in C++

The point is though there will be both x86(32-bit only) and x64(64-bit which is compatible with 32-bit) Windows 7. And I don't think it's a good idea releasing the 32-bit-only Windows in 2010... omg 2010 for heaven's sake, many are going to change at least several times during these coming three years...

I know there should be a full set of 64-bit only drivers for the entire devices to run a 64-bit Windows, for this very reason, 32-bit-only OS may be needed still then. But unlike software, hardware is evolving pretty fast so there is little point to support then-old-legacy devices in a brand-new OS.

I do think keeping a 32-bit version is a good idea, especially since some of the issues Vista x64 has had don't look like going away too quickly...

Shouldn't the title be "Windows 7/x86 not such a bad thing" not "Windows 7/x32 not such a bad thing" as x86 is 32-bit...

It's MS' makes-no-sense-at-all own naming convention. Both 32 and 64bits procesors belong to the x86 family (well, the most common ones).

Ok now it does indeed make sense: windows7/x86 is certainly not a bad thing since that's the architecture most people will be using in the foreseeable future (be it 32 or 64-bits).

Woah, that was quick... I clicked on the link saying "x32" and ended up reading the story saying "x86" :laugh:
Neobond, the fastest editor in the west :cheeky:

Neobond said,
I get carried away with "MS makes-no-sense-at-all own naming convention" sometimes :rolleyes:

Yet I don't think you'd want to argue that it does

balupton said,
Shouldn't the title be "Windows 7/x86 not such a bad thing" not "Windows 7/x32 not such a bad thing" as x86 is 32-bit...

Meh, depends. Sun referes to x86-64 as x64 so the logical is x32. Its all very stupid as well all know they're talking about.