Going 64-Bit: A Cautionary Tale

Recently a customer of mine who makes a living testing patient’s hearing and troubleshooting issues with their hearing aides bought a new laptop to take out on call. The laptop he bought was an HP Pavilion TV5, a powerful system with a very reasonable price. Last night I stopped at his office to configure his diagnostic software and devices on the new laptop, and ran into a major issue that was anything but surprising.

The Pavilion TV5 comes with Vista Home Premium 64-bit Edition preinstalled.  Niche industries such as my client’s are often years behind in operating system and platform support, and 64-bit architecture is no exception.  None of my client’s hardware or software were supported by his new system. So what’s a geek to do?

HP will not provide or support a 32-bit operating system for this laptop.  Microsoft will not allow us to exchange the operating system for the 32-bit equivalent.  Best Buy will exchange the laptop but the only replacements they offer running Vista 32-bit are, for lack of a better word, crap.

Did manufacturers jump the gun with the switch to 64-bit?

Update: Apparently this post caused some controversy both here on my blog as well as on my submission over on DZone. In an effort to keep the discussion going, I replied to some reader comments in a separate entry, called Going 64-Bit, Revisited.

9 replies
  1. JP says:

    So, the technology should not evolve because there are some legacy applications out there? If the laptop had windows vista 64 bit as advertised (and they DO advertise it), it is a well known fact that you won’t have 16 bit support. Its not like there aren’t any laptops with xp or vista 32 bit. So, if someone made an ignorant choice, now is the manufacturer’s fault?
    Btw most of these issues can easily be solved using vmware, virtualbox or something like it. If the laptop’s cpu has VT support, a vm will be a lot faster than a 4 or 5 year-old computer.

  2. Gene says:

    Sounds like he just bought a laptop that wasn’t suited to the task. Would you have blamed HP if the user’s software was all Linux-based? The first step in buying hardware is making sure it will support the software you need it for.

  3. KL says:

    Sorry, but this is a terrible story for the title. I thought it was going to be an analysis of the state of 64 bit systems, etc, etc. But it’s a story about someone purchasing (most likely accidentally) a 64-bit computer, and you (the author) are saying it’s the manufacturers fault? This article has little relevance to 64-bit architecture.

    It’s like saying a man went in to buy a Diet Coke, but instead walked out with a regular Coke. Is Coke jumping the gun and adding sugar unnecessarily?

    I’m with JP on this.

  4. Bubak says:

    Did you actually __tryed__ installing those apps? 32 bit emulation is very good and it may work fine.
    Also upgrade to Windows 7 may be cheep solution.

  5. Steve says:

    Well, you cautioned, but some just want to rant. As far as solutions, are you able to host a 32bit OS in VMWare on this machine that will work with the software and hardware? If so, you can do that and also preserve an image so the client will always have a working “machine.”

  6. Nick says:

    Just because you can solve the problem doesn’t mean it’s not a problem, people.

    The issue here is that most consumers wouldn’t know where to start for a working understanding of 32bit vs 64bit. There is no NEED for the average consumer to have a 64 bit system. So why in the world would a major manufacturer start shipping 64bit operating systems on laptops they KNOW people are going to buy without a 64 vs 32 bit education?

    The only people that need a 64bit OS know where to find it.

    Shipping a consumer level laptop with a 64 bit OS is stupid, and is most certainly inviting the consumer to have multitudes of issues.

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