Will Panther Be A 64-Bit OS? Sort Of. PCWorld Explains

PCWorld has published an article that takes an in-depth look at the world of 64-bit computing, including Appleis upcoming G5-powered Power Macs. The article attempts to explain what 64-bit computing is, and what it means to normal users.

Included in the article is some hard news from Apple that Panther, the companyis next major version of Mac OS X, will not actually be a 64-bit OS, but will instead be a 32-bit OS that offers support for 64-bit addressing. This is technical mumbo jumbo that basically means that making Panther not a straight 64-bit OS is part of the backwards-compatibility for 32-bit apps that Apple is touting for the G5. From the article:

When Apple rolls out its new G5 products in August, it will include an updated version of the current 32-bit OS X operating system code-named Jaguar, Appleis Joswiak says. The updated OS will support 32-bit applications with the ability to make 64-bit requests from the processor.

"The important thing for us [is] we didnit want to create a separate OS that is 64 bits," Joswiak says. "What is essential is that this OS and this hardware will run 32-bit applications with no recompiling--it will just run them." Apple hasnit announced plans for a pure 64-bit operating system; Panther, an updated 32-bit OS due out the end of this year, will have Jaguar-like 64-bit support.

AMDis Athlon 64 processor will work like previous Athlon chips under the current 32-bit Windows XP, but the OS does not support the chipis 64-bit capabilities. That waits until Microsoft ships its as-yet-unnamed 64-bit version of Windows XP for the Athlon 64, which is about to begin beta testing. That OS will support both 32-bit and 64-bit applications; Microsoft has not said when it will ship the OS, however.

There is a lot more information in the full article, including the lack of a true 64-bit desktop effort from Intel, and much more. The Register has also published an analysis from long-time Apple watcher Tony Smith on what this means in practical terms. We recommend both as good reads.