Future of IA32 (Was: Intrepid compatibility with C3 CPUs #5212)

Emmet Hikory persia at ubuntu.com
Mon Sep 1 03:38:38 UTC 2008

M G wrote:
> There are basically two types of x86 Ubuntu offered at present - 32
> bit and 64 bit. Most new CPUs sold today are 64 bit, so that is where
> the future of Ubuntu ought to be. 32 bit is for older (legacy)
> hardware or for specialised uses such as low power or embedded
> applications. In other words, 64 bit is for mainstream desktops,
> laptops and servers and 32 bit is for legacy and special purpose.
> If this is a correct way of looking at things, then it doesn't make
> much sense to exclude support for some 32 bit processors, nor does it
> make sense to come out with a special third version (x86-64, i686,
> i586) to handle these cases. Rather I think it would make more sense
> to leave CPU support in 8.10 the same as it was in 8.04 (C3 works).
> Time will solve this problem anyway as 32 bit simply fades away.

    Without discussion of the temporary issue regarding support for
i586-class machines (now apparently solved), I'd like to specifically
dispute that 32-bit processors are going to fade away any time soon.
There are an increasing number of 32-bit only IA32 processors coming
on the market, with generally smaller footprints in the interest of
reducing power usage.  While there are a few processors that are in
this class, the most well advertised currently is the "Atom" processor
from Intel.  Until such time as we cannot reasonably expect a system
to operate cleanly with only two gigabytes of memory, there exists a
useful niche for such processors (and the Atom is actually limited to
one gigabyte of memory).

    As Ubuntu currently well capable of installing and running on
systems with 256MB RAM, and there are scattered reports of working
systems with as little as 64MB RAM, I expect that this time will be at
least a decade hence, and so not relevant to current discussions.


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