Imagine for a moment that a car maker has announced the availability of a new engine that runs on hydrogen. It is nearly silent, leaves no emissions except for water vapor, and lets you drive 50 miles on a single liter.

Would you want one? You would if the marketers have done their jobs. But hold on—there are some things to consider before buying such an engine:

  • Would you have to buy a new car, or would your current car support the new engine?
  • If only one manufacturer is building the engine, can you afford it?
  • Who would install and service the engine?
  • Where would you buy hydrogen for fuel? You can’t simply choose “H” at the local gas station.

In other words, exciting though such an innovative engine might be, you can’t yet realize its full potential. The engine by itself is not yet a solution because the ecosystem isn’t in place to help you take full advantage of its capabilities.

In similar fashion, you might be itching to purchase the latest mobile devices. You’ve heard they are 64-bit, and the hype leads you to believe that 64-bit devices are automatically better, faster, and stronger than your current device.

But most users do not understand what 64-bit computing means and what it does not. They might think that they’re asking for a faster smartphone or tablet, but 64 bit doesn’t mean twice as fast as 32 bit. In fact, when users make the switch to mobile devices with 64-bit architecture, most will notice little or no difference in performance for the things they do most often.

Do You Notice a Difference with Your 64-Bit Smartphone?

The arrival in 2013 of 64-bit mobile devices was a milestone in the natural progression of personal computing. 64-bit computing in your pocket is an exciting innovation, to be sure, but it is important to know what it means and what it does not. The bottom line is that updated hardware is necessary but not sufficient to deliver on the 64-bit promise. That promise requires a mature ecosystem.

What Does 64-Bit Computing Mean?

At its geeky root, “64-bit computing” refers to how much information a computer system can handle at a time. Simply stated, the physical and logical components that define 64-bit architecture are twice as wide as their 32-bit cousins.

Under certain conditions, 64-bit architecture can improve performance.

Figure 1. Under certain conditions, 64-bit architecture can improve performance

Think of an eight-lane freeway compared to a four-lane freeway. Eight lanes can obviously handle more cars at once compared to four lanes. But only under certain conditions will these additional lanes help an individual car get from point A to point B faster.
For example, if all four lanes are filled to capacity and traffic begins to slow, a traveler could benefit from more lanes to spread the cars out and eliminate nervous brake tapping. Late at night, however, when fewer cars are on the road, an eight-lane freeway will not somehow increase a traveler’s maximum speed.
Similarly, the tasks that most users perform regularly on mobile devices do not completely fill the available traffic lanes: 32 bits can handle email and social-media updates just fine, so a change to 64-bit architecture might not deliver immediate performance improvements.

The 64-bit Computing Promise: It Takes an Ecosystem

The 64-bit processor inside a growing number of mobile devices is an important first step in realizing the potential of advanced mobile computing. But it is just the first step. You also need an operating system and apps that can take full advantage of the 64-bit hardware, and you need a use case that is sufficiently demanding to use the added horsepower.

You need a complete ecosystem to get the most from 64-bit mobile hardware.

Figure 2. You need a complete ecosystem to get the most from 64-bit mobile hardware

When you purchase a 64-bit mobile device, you have two hardware designs to choose from—ARM architecture and Intel architecture. When you make this choice, you also “sign on” to the ecosystem that surrounds that architecture.
This matters because Intel has been a pioneer in 64-bit computing since 2001. It has driven industry innovation in 64-bit servers, workstations, and PCs—a steady march that now culminates in tablets and smartphones. Intel’s long history and leadership in this space mean that it has the expertise and mature ecosystem partnerships that are needed to help you realize the promise of 64-bit mobile computing.
Learn more by reading the full paper on 64-bit mobile devices and the supporting ecosystem.

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