Windows 7 May Trigger 64-bit OS Adoption: Page 2

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Thanks for more memory

For early adopters, the attraction has been the 64-bit edition's ability to address more than 4 GB of RAM – the maximum limit for 32-bit operating systems, Vista x86 included.

Among the factors that have kept many users from switching to 64-bit Vista to date has been a shortage of 64-bit device drivers. Vista x64 cannot run 32-bit device drivers, which relegates older printers and other hardware to the scrap heap.

Added to that, writing device drivers is a significant investment on the part of hardware makers. To this point, many hardware vendors have not been willing to ante up to write 64-bit drivers, especially for older hardware products.

While that situation has improved significantly in the nearly two years since Vista x64 first shipped, there is still a shortage of large numbers of true 64-bit applications. Vista x64 runs 32-bit applications like Office 2007 in an emulation mode.

Although there are many applications that have no driving need for more memory than a 32-bit operating system can provide – Office, for example – there are application areas where the more memory, the better, such as computer-aided design (CAD) and video editing.

To be sure, there is a growing list of applications written to take advantage of Vista x64. These include high-end graphics and photo processing as well as video and audio editing and streaming.

"Over time we'll see more 64-bit-optimized programs hit the market, which promise dramatic performance and experience improvements," Flores' post said. An additional area that tends to drive adoption of new technologies is, of course, games, he added.

Where's the 'Killer App?'

The question is, what will be the so-called "killer app" that will finally trigger the shift to 64-bit OSes, and Windows 7 x64 specifically?

"When you get into the type of applications that really profit from having more than 4 GB of memory, most are related to graphics," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told For business customers, that could also include running multiple virtualized environments, he added.

Creative Strategies' Bajarin agrees but suggests that another possible killer app may be the evolving vision of integrated media and content based networks such as that envisioned by Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie. This week, Ozzie announced new pieces of the company's software-plus-services, cloud-based computing initiative, such as the Azure development platform and Live Mesh.

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