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April 26, 2005

Microsoft and Apple take different paths to 64-bit

Posted 4613 days ago on April 26, 2005

This whole 64-bit debate is getting interesting. Last week I attended a Microsoft 64-bit briefing which listed various reasons why 64-bit Windows has advantages for pretty much any PC user. Yesterday I attended an Apple OS X 10.4 "Tiger" briefing, and was told that 64-bit is pretty much irrelevant on client computers. Tiger remains 32-bit although it supports 64-bit pointers so that apps running on a G5 can access huge amounts of memory. Parts of 10.4 take advantage of 64-bit processing for G5 optimization.

Clearly we will all move to 64-bit eventually. The reason for the different stories from Microsoft and Apple is that the companies are taking different routes to compatibility, which is the key obstacle here. Apple is keeping the OS essentially 32-bit for the moment. Microsoft is doing what it did with 16-bit apps in 32-bit Windows. On 64-bit Windows, 32-bit apps run in a compatibility layer, again called WOW ("Windows on Windows"). Both entirely reasonable approaches, but giving Microsoft a slight edge for 64-bit enthusiasts. On the other hand, lack of support for 32-bit drivers in 64-bit Windows makes the transition more painful.

Re: Microsoft and Apple take different paths to 64-bit

Posted 4613 days ago by Charles • • wwwReply

Who are the 64-bit enthusiasts? Surely businesses looking to run big databases. Wouldn't they be the ones migrating stuff to 64-bit, so wouldn't the lack of drivers be an issue?

My impression from the Apple briefing was that apps could run natively as 64-bit in Tiger on a G5, if someone writes them like that. But 32-bit can run natively too. So Tiger sort of straddles the divide, depending what processor it's running on.

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