Why do Tablets or Smart Phones Need a 64 Bit O/S?

On October 22, 2013, Apple unveiled its newest tablet computers, the iPad Air, and the latest generation of the iPad Mini. The iPad Air was touted as being a very advanced type of tablet computer, especially given its 64bit operating system. But why do table computers need a 64bit operating system? I don’t think they do, and here’s why:

The biggest obstacle to computing speed, in my experience, have little to do with a lack of 64bit operating systems. In the 1990s, the most nagging impediments to efficient end user computing were PCs lacking the right amount of Random Access Memory (RAM) to expeditiously process computing tasks, and generally slow data communications networks. On this last point, even the fast processors in hardware systems equipped with the right amount of RAM, would still leave users unsatisfied.

Now, in 2013, very high speed networks are widely available, and RAM is still relatively inexpensive. Most smart phones ship with at least 8 Gigabytes of memory, and are capable of connecting to the fastest available cellular data networks here in the United States. So what, precisely, will a 64 bit operating system do to speed up tablet computing? Not much.

So the Apple announcement amounts to some very creative hype. In fact there isn’t any need, today, for a 64bit operating system, neither for phones, nor for tablets. Perhaps, in the future, there will be a legitimate need for 64bit computing architecture, but not in 2013 or 2014.

Are Apple competitors likely to rush out to add 64bit operating systems to their products? I don’t think so, especially since consumers are not likely to experience any material difference in the quality of their computing experience as they switch between chip architectures.

I do applaud the success of the PR team at Apple. This announcement, along with their decision to eschew making money from software and just writing it to push hardware sales (another rather nonsensical decision in my opinion), were transformed into brilliant gestures by the alchemists in the PR team in Cupertino.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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