Some 46 percent of Windows 7 PCs are running 64-bit versions of Microsoft's latest operating system, according to a company blog post. By contrast, only 11 percent of Windows Vista machines are running the 64-bit version of that system, and less than one percent of Windows XP PCs are running 64-bit version of Windows XP.
"With Windows 7, running a 64-bit OS is becoming the norm," Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc, said in a post Thursday to the Windows Team Blog.
The sudden shift to 64-bit Windows 7 for PC clients is not unexpected but may impact decision makers' PC buying decisions going forward.
The reasons for the disparity, and for the growing popularity of 64-bit operating systems, are two-fold, according to a leading Windows analyst.
"One of the factors has to be that more of the PCs being bought today are 64-bits, so more people are getting new machines with the 64-bit version [of Windows 7]," Michael Cherry, research vice president for operating systems at Directions on Microsoft, told InternetNews.com.
"The other factor is they [Microsoft] did a good job on 64-bit processor support in Windows 7," Cherry added. That, along with good reviews and good experiences among users created "a great deal of faith in Windows 7."
So what does a 64-bit CPU coupled with an operating system that's designed to take advantage of it provide? Support for a lot more memory is a big part of it.
"Thirty-two bit architectures have a memory ceiling of 4GB while the 64-bit architecture increases the memory ceiling to approximately 17.2 billion GB of RAM," LeBlanc's post said. While that much memory would be virtually impossible to put into a PC today, Windows 7 is designed to support 192GB of memory, he said.
LeBlanc has his own viewpoint on why users might want access to more than 4GB of RAM: more memory usually translates into better performance, particularly when running a lot of applications at once.
PC makers haven't missed the cachet that going 64-bit brings with it, either, even if there aren't that many PCs for sale yet that come stock with more than 4GB of memory.
"We have seen many OEMs convert entire consumer lines of PCs to 64-bit only – which can be seen quite a bit today ... [in fact,] 77 percent of PCs sold at retail in April 2010 in the U.S. had a 64-bit edition of Windows 7 pre-installed," LeBlanc added.
Microsoft recently announced it has sold more than 150 million licenses for all versions of Windows 7 worldwide.
Tags: Microsoft, Windows 7, 64-bits