Microsoft doubles down on 64-bit with Office 14

While poking around in the latest Windows 7 beta, I discovered a nifty surprise. The Windows Easy Transfer utility supports a slew of new programs, including (drumroll, please) Office 14. Yes, the one that won’t be in beta until this summer and won’t be released till early next year.

Even more interesting is the confirmation that Office 14 will be delivered in 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) versions. I’ve got the details over at ZDNet: Next Office version to ship in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Office 14 to ship in 32-bit and 64-bit versions

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Windows Easy Transfer lately, in preparation for Chapter 2 of Windows 7 Inside Out. It’s got some very nice surprises in it. (More on that next week.)

I hope Microsoft’s big bet on x64 pays off and inspires other developers to move their apps to 64-bit as well. The 32-bit compatibility layer in Windows Vista x64 and Windows 7 x64 works very well, but native code should be more robust and reliable.

8 thoughts on “Microsoft doubles down on 64-bit with Office 14

  1. w00t!

    Finally Microsoft will start doing 64 bit in full force.
    Still, what about Silverlight? I’ve noticed nothing in the release notes of the Silverlight 3 preview, but I could be missing something.

  2. I heard last week that there are no current plans for Silverlight x64. That seems understandable, actually. Not sure there’s tremendous short-term benefit to Silverlight 64 at present. Rapid development and improvement in performance seems more important.

  3. Just as a side note Ed I hope that Windows 7 Inside and Out will be available from a supplier who supports PayPal because I definitely want to get my hands on that book when it comes out. Hell I’m looking for where I can line up to pre-order the actual OS – something I have never wanted to do before.

  4. It’s not a big gamble it’s just an effort to sell more units. What good is a 32bit OS if I have a 4 gig computer. They are just finally catching up with the hardware like everyone else

    1. FeedME, I’m not sure I understand your comment. Microsoft has had a 64-bit OS for many years, and the x64 flavor of Vista is now outselling the 32-bit version on retail consumer PCs. This development is about applications, specifically Office.

  5. It’s not much of a ‘compatibility layer’. 32-bit code runs native on x64 processors. That’s what differentiates it from the old FX!32 on Windows NT on Alpha, and from Rosetta on Intel Macs, both of which translate from one instruction set to another. There’s a very thin translation layer that turns a 32-bit system call into the 64-bit equivalent, and redirects some registry commands to a different part of the registry.

    Compatibility issues with 32-bit apps on x64 tend to be where the application tries to install a driver (all drivers must be x64 code on Windows x64 editions), where it tries to communicate with a driver or application using a private command and that command can’t be translated (generally this is scummy programming anyway) or where a call to an API is subtly wrong, in a way that isn’t picked up by the 32-bit OS but is translated differently by the 64-bit translation layer. Windows has an AppCompat database that can inject ‘shim’ code into known problematic apps, to fix up such problems. It’s possible to construct your own shim database for an application that isn’t fixed by the Windows-supplied one, using Microsoft’s Application Compatibility Toolkit. I’ve used this to stop Foxit Reader requiring elevation on Windows Vista.

    I’m not sure why Microsoft have chosen to start x64 versions of Office now. Generally the 32-bit versions get nowhere near the 2GB process virtual memory limit of the 32-bit OS, though I note that Word 2007 does not indicate that it’s Large Address Aware and cannot use the larger 32-bit address space (nearly 4GB) available for 32-bit programs on x64, if they opt in with this flag. It’s probably to avoid problems with plug-ins that aren’t Large Address Aware.

    Silverlight x64 would only be useful if you used the 64-bit version of IE. For most people that’s ruled out, because their toolbars and ActiveX plugins (such as Flash) are only available in 32-bit. This becomes a vicious cycle, of course – no-one moves if no-one else does.

  6. What’s the advantage of a 64-bit Office? Stability? Speed? Office 2007 seems stable and fast enough. I won’t type faster with a 64-bit Word. I guess Outlook could use a speed boost, but I don’t see the point.

  7. Personally I am hoping for a bit more processing power from Office 14. Office greatly expanded the amount of work that we are able to do in Excel, and we now regularly have spreadsheets that approach 1 GB in size, and use 8 or 16 processors in parallel for calcing these complex sheets.

    Hopefully a 64-bit version of Excel will add a little computational oomph for us.

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