32-bit versions of Windows 10


Anyone else think it’s about time for Microsoft to look to ending the 32-bit (x86) releases of Windows 10?

Apple’s latest OS (Catalina) has dropped support for 32-bit apps and libraries.

I believe iOS also either already has, or is due to very soon.

Many vendors of apps that require high RAM use (e.g. Adobe, CAD software) no-longer provide current 32-bit app versions.

NVIDIA and AMD no-longer offer new features in their graphics-drivers for 32-bit (not sure about Intel?)

Ubuntu only officially now offers a 64-bit ISO for download.

According to a ZDNet article, from 1 Aug 2021, anyone with a 64-bit Android OS on their phone won’t see any 32-bit only apps in the Store.

So… isn’t it time for Microsoft to finally consider plans for retiring the 32-bit version of Windows 10?

If I were them, I’d plan as follows:

Home users: announce that the 20H2 release will be the final 32-bit one with new features, and from 21H1, only bug-fixes and security-fixes will be offered. Built-in apps won’t see new features, except perhaps those considered separate from the OS, such as the new Edge. The bug-fixes and security-updates should continue for “the lifetime of that device”.

Business users: advise them to move to the 32-bit LTSC release this year, and advise no LTSC released after this years’ will be offered in 32-bit. Provide 10 years support for bug and security fixes, as is usual for LTSC releases, so that by 2030 no 32-bit releases are offered in the LTSC, Pro or Enterprise SKUs.

Kiosks/PoS systems: 32-bit could continue here, as these are specific-use cases, though Microsoft should start to charge more for 32-bit installs than 64-bit to discourage their use.

As for some issues people may comment on:

Driver support: maybe Microsoft should use their telemetry to see which are the most-common devices still in-use that only have 32-bit drivers and see if any 64-bit drivers for similar models could have their .INF file tweaked to support some of them? Or see if they could fudge-together some generic drivers to cover them?

16-bit app support: surely some sort of virtual Windows 9x kernel could be added to run these apps in? (Think “XP Mode” in Windows 7). The Windows 9x kernel must be tiny!

DOS support: integrate DOSBox?

CPUs that are 32-bit only: aside from ARM CPUs for some smartphones, I doubt any desktop/laptop/server CPU has been 32-bit only for some time now, so the only PCs needing this would be very-old ones, or those cheap-as-dirt tablets/netbooks you can find online. Surely by now 64-bit CPUs must be cheaper to use even in those dirty-cheap devices, given how many will be made in a production-run batch compared to 32-bit ones?

Just to be clear: I’m not suggesting the removal of 32-bit app support from 64-bit versions of Windows 10, just the retirement of the 32-bit versions of Windows 10

Any thoughts?

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