Driver shortage could derail 64-bit

Driver shortage could derail 64-bit

Summary: Microsoft, Intel and Dell are all worried that users who embrace 64-bit computing may not realise how many drivers they need to update

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Companies who make the move to 64-bit computing could be hit by a lack of compatible hardware drivers, representative from some of the world's largest IT companies warned on Tuesday.

Attendees at The CTO Mandate event in London heard evidence that 64-bit applications and architectures could deliver significant productivity gains. But speakers from Microsoft, Intel and Dell all agreed that the issue of device drivers was a hurdle that needs clearing.

"The hardware you buy has to come with right device drivers for 64-bit," explained David Overton, senior partner technical specialist at Microsoft. "The problem is, most people don't think of printers as needing hardware drivers. So you need to go and ask the manufacturer for a 64-bit driver for that three-year old printer. That's where we see things coming unstuck," Overton added.

Speaking later with ZDNet UK, Overton explained that his concern wasn't so much that 64-bit drivers would be scarce — Microsoft, he said, will ship around 50,000 64-bit drivers for its 64-bit operating systems. Instead, he is worried that users may not realise how many devices will be affected by a shift to 64-bit, especially if the relevant manufacturer is no longer in business.

Microsoft launched its first 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Professional last month — an important milestone in the move from 32-bit to 64-bit computing on both the desktop and server, even though Microsoft was effectively playing catch-up with other operating systems such as Solaris, OS X and Linux.

Intel, which has also been pushing 64-bit computing over recent years with its Itanium chip, appears to share Microsoft's concerns. "Sixty four-bit computing is something that everyone has heard of, but not everyone gets the implications," said Gordon Graylish, director of products and solutions for Intel.

Hugh Jenkins, Dell's server marketing manager, agreed. "Some work has been done, but there's some still to do on 64-bit drivers," he told the audience of senior IT professionals.

Concern about this issue clearly extends right to the very top of Microsoft. Over a year ago, speaking at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, Bill Gates urged hardware manufacturers to start writing 64-bit drivers for Windows. "There's a real call to action from us here. Let's make sure the device drivers are not a gating factor for people moving to 64-bit," said Gates.

The CTO Mandate was organised by the European Technology Forum, which is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of ZDNet UK.

Topic: Operating Systems

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5 comments
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  • I realy think both Microsoft and hardware manufacurers ought to sort out the mess we have with the present system. At the moment I have a 64 bit AMD chip running on an Asus K8 motherboard that is still running Windows Millenium because Windows XP does not have the relevent drivers for the SATA dos!
    anonymous
  • I have a k8vse delux board and run XP (32) on a SATA drive. The drives are on the ASUS website. I think mine is using the promise controller.

    Couldn't get the free download XP64 copy to work though.
    anonymous
  • I switched to Windows X64 in August 2005. I did not realize that it will be hell using devices. Even now I cannot find a Webcam that will install under Windows 64. It took more than a year for HP to come up with a driver for my two year old HP printer. Even then it has lost a lot of functionality.

    Could any one tell me how to find a Webcam which has a compatible 64 bit driver for Windows X64??
    anonymous
  • It has now been a year since this article came out and little has improved. I recently needed a new system (I build my own) and could only find 64-bit parts at a reasonable price. Figuring that it made no sense to have a 64-bit system and a 32-bit OS, I went ahead and bought MS Win XP64, then the fun began. ALL of the drivers furnished by the motherboard manufacturer (BIOSTAR) were 32-bit drivers and refused to load once I had the OS installed (so no on-board audio, no LAN). I decided to do something simple, such as get my printer working but HP had no 64-bit drivers for my printer and stated that they had no intent of EVER providing them. Of course none of the non-Microsoft utilities that I prefer work on the 64-bit system and, in fact, none of the installation programs I have run have recognized XP64 as a legitimate OS!
    It seems the ongoing gap between hardware and software development has reached its logical conclusion - none of the available software seems to run on any of the newly available hardware. A ludicrous situation at best.
    anonymous
  • Slowly getting better

    I tried X64 about 9 months ago and gave up 'till now, using the time inbetween to get drivers. Hp now has 64bit drivers albeit beta, I've got the drivers installed for my Deskjet 5552 (but as a previous poster said, lost some functionality - cleaning print heads) installed drivers okay for the epson stylus photo R220. Used both their x64 drivers and software but the software was outdated, so used the x64 drivers and my x32 software disk. Everything works perfectly. 1-up for epson as against HP!

    Still stuck as logitech have announced they have no intention of providing x64 drivers. My scanner hasn't got x64 drivers and I can't fax cos cant find any x64 drivers for any of my 3 v92 dialup modems.

    Let's just hope that when vista 64 comes out early 2007 these manufacturers will pull their fingers out cos after all x64 has been in the market place 3 years now!
    trickyricky-1a356