Microsoft claims a consumer 'shift' to 64-bit Vista, but where are the drivers?

A big "shift" is now on to 64-bit Windows Vista PCs, even among consumers, according to Microsoft product manager Chris Flores. But he acknowledges that, even now, few if any 64-drivers are available for some categories of consumer products, including DVD/RW devices.

"The installed base of 64-bit Windows Vista PCs, as a percentage of all Windows Vista systems, has more than tripled in the US in the last three months, while worldwide adoption has more than doubled during the same period," Flores contended, late on Wednesday.

Microsoft's newly minted claims of tripled 64-bit adoption over the past three months are based on download figures from Windows Update. "Another view shows that 20% of new Windows Vista PCs in the U.S. connecting to Windows Update were 64-bit PCs, up from just 3% in March."

But although Flores gives percentages, he doesn't deliver any hard numbers, a fact that tends to cast more than a shadow of doubt on his later assertions in the same blog that, "what started out as a gradual (some would say 'glacial') movement toward 64-bit PCs, driven primarily by technology enthusiasts, seems to have turned into a swift transition, likely fueled by the falling cost of memory and consumers' desire to get the most of of their PCs."

Microsoft predicts that use of 64-bit Vista among consumers "will accelerate as the retail channels shifts to supplying a rapidly increasing assortment of 64-bit desktops and laptops."

Flores goes on to raise two questions. "Is the 64-bit market ready to go mainstream? Will consumers realize the benefits from larger chips and 4GB of memory?" he asks. As might be expected, he answers "yes" to both -- although somewhat refreshingly, it is a "qualified yes," and not a definite yes.

"But if you only use your PC for a few tasks, and rarely do them at the same time, then you're unlikely to realize a measurable performance benefit today," Flores admits.

For those interested enough in 64-bit Vista PCs to want to find devices that will actually work with those systems, Flores provides a link to the Windows Vista Compatibility Center.

On a few quick clicks through this morning, BetaNews did find 64-bit Vista-compatible drivers in categories such as printers. But for some consumer device classes -- including CD/RW and DVD/RW storage devices, digital media receivers, and Bluetooth adapters -- there was virtually nothing for 64-bit Vista.

Curiously, too, Flores mentioned nothing about so-called "advanced security features," such as Data Execution Protection, which Microsoft touted earlier as pluses for 64-bit Vista.

One of the blogger's own readers has also made that observation. "Vista has advanced security features (e.g. Data Execution Protection). Using Windows Update and Malicious Software Removal Kit to collect data, do you have hard data that shows Vista 64-bit to be more secure than 32-bit Vista?" the user asked.

At a Microsoft meeting with financial analysts last week, officials promised an "aggressive marketing" campaign for Vista. Since then, Microsoft has produced the controversial Mojave Experiment, along with at least two blog posts from Flores -- one about 64-bit Vista, and another that attacked analyst firm Forrester Research for its divided stance on Vista.

What do you think, is 64-bit Vista ready for mainstream? Are you running 32-bit or 64-bit?

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