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If you pay attention to what's happening in personal computing, you're going to be hearing quite a bit in coming months about 64-bit processors. Apple has made a splash with its PowerMac G5 desktop, based on a new 64-bit G5 processor, while desktops built around Advanced Micro Devices' 64-bit Athlon 64 chip have just started shipping. So, what is a 64-bit processor? What can it do for you? And when will you need one? A 64-bit processor can use 18 exabytes -- that's 18 billion billion bytes -- of memory, orders of magnitude greater than any physical computer could actually hold.
Most of the time people ask, "Do we all really need 64 bit computers now?" The correct question to ask is "How long do I expect to use my new computer?" So if you plan on using a new computer for 4 years, ask yourself "Will I need 64 bit software in the next 4 years?"
How often have you purchases computer hardware and had it felt obsolete just six months later? The real killer app for the new AMD64 computers (Athlon 64/Athlon FX/Opteron) is futureproofing. Buying such computers now protects your hardware investment for when 64 software is mainstream, while providing record breaking 32 bit performance at 32 bit performance prices. I guarentee my next computer purchase will be an Athlon 64. Being able to simultaneously use 32 and 64 bit software and upgrade at your own pace is a tremendous advantage over the Itanium approach. Pricewise,
it's not much of a difference either.
These machines are super fast 32 bit machines, so use them as a 32 bit machine today and then upgrade the software later, when YOU want to, not when someone tells you to. The future is now with these machines.
If you get dual processor workstations, Intel is second rate because of the hypertransport interconnects. That's one of the reasons for the new IBM Opteron based clusters.