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Tablets race toward 64-bit finish line with new hardware, operating systems

Bringing 64-bit chip architecture to the tablet space will erase one of the last advantages full-fledged PCs have.

By Mark Hachman, PC World
February 18, 2014 11:37 AM ET

PC World - Tablets running a 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 on top of Intel's 64-bit Atom processor, Bay Trail, are set to debut at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month. They'll be the first horses out of the gate in a larger race to move the entire tablet ecosystem--hardware and software--to the new technology.

The field--made up of Microsoft, Google, Intel, ARM, AMD, Apple, and a host of software developers--are all rushing toward a more robust 64-bit environment, with the goal of future-proofing tablet performance.A In general, that means giving them the potential to address memory beyond 4GB of RAM, and also providing consistency with other 64-bit applications that already exist on the PC.

Industry sources pointed to Apple's introduction of the 64-bit A7 chip last September as the forerunner that goaded competition. "Once again, Apple changed the game on everybody," said one source (who declined to be identified to protect business relationships). After the A7's launch, demand for 64-bit technology skyrocketed, forcing other tablet makers to follow suit.

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64-bit Windows, 64-bit Atom: smooth sailing?

Most, if not all, of the existing Windows tablet makers are expected to begin shifting over to 64-bit technology. "One of the usual suspects," said our source, will be showing off a 64-bit Bay Trail tablet in Barcelona. The vendor is most likely Dell. Without specifically commenting, a Dell representative said that the company would be offering a 64-bit OS on the Venue 8 Pro and 11 Pro tablets later this year.

"This is important for our commercial customers because many applications have been built on existing client hardware, which is predominantly 64-bit," the Dell representative continued. "So it will provide a richer user experience for customers."

The Bay Trail Atom chip (also known as the Atom Z3680) is Intel's first 64-bit system-on-a-chip.A Given that the Atom chips are compatible with Intel's existing Core lineup, the Windows-on-Atom transition should go fairly smoothly, sources expect.

Microsoft has shipped a 64-bit-compatible version of Windows since 2005, when the company released a version of Windows XP for the new 64-bit Athlon 64 processor from AMD. Software developers (often without much fanfare) began migrating their software from 32 bits to 64 bits.

The shift didn't happen overnight. Microsoft'sA Office 2010, for example, installed a 32-bit version by default even if your PC used a 64-bit chip. It was an attempt to cut down or eliminate software incompatibilities. But, in general, Windows apps that need to be 64-bit have already been re-coded for 64-bit technology.

"Windows 8.1 runs great on 64-bit," a Microsoft representative said in a statement. "There are a number of great Windows 8.1 devices running 64-bit on Intel chips out now such as Dell's Venue Pro 11, XPS12, Acer Aspire, Surface Pro 2. A In the coming months, there will be Windows 8.1 devices running 64 bit on Atom."

Originally published on Click here to read the original story.

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