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The consumer market has been trending from 32-bit systems toward 64-bit computing for the past several years, with chipmakers like Intel and AMD introducing 64-bit processors for the mass market as far back as 2003.
To date, however, enterprises have held off on the architecture due to concerns about cost, compatibility, and the notion that 64-bit computing is overkill for most office apps.
But with Windows XP, still the OS of choice for most corporations, getting long in the tooth, the market is primed for a move to newer technology. "With a Windows 7 migration looming, it's time for corporate customers to do some thinking about 64-bit," wrote Gartner analyst Brian Gammage, in a blog post.
"The bottom line is that at some point in the next five years, you very likely will be moving to a 64-bit operating environment and Windows 7 may be the right time to make the move," said Gammage.
64-bit computing offers a number of advantages over 32-bit. The biggest is that 64-bit systems can break the 4GB mark in terms of memory handling. That could be critical in a world where corporate desktops and laptops are fast becoming access points for data, voice, and multimedia information services fed from the cloud.
"At the very least everyone should include one 64-bit environment in their testing matrix," wrote Gammage.
"While it may not be the right time to make the move, it is certainly the right time to start preparing for the inevitable 64-bit shift," wrote the analyst, in a post filed last week after Microsoft formally launched Windows 7.
Going 64-bit isn't without risk, however. There' no guarantee that existing applications, device drivers, and peripherals will run on a 64-bit system—particularly if they are older.
That may be why businesses, for now at least, are taking it slow when it comes to 64-bit adoption. A recent poll by Gartner showed that only 13% of companies surveyed had definite plans to deploy the 64-bit version of Windows 7, while 34% said they would opt for the 32-bit edition. The rest were undecided.
For Further Reading:
InformationWeek has published an indepth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).