Intel's Bay Trail processor is a bona-fide 64-bit chip, but right now, pretty much all Bay Trail-powered Windows 8.1 tablets come pre-installed with the 32-bit version of the OS. Happily, that may be about to change. Or at least, CNet News says it's going to.
The site got word from a "source familiar with upcoming plans for those tablets" that, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month, "at least one major PC maker" will show a Bay Trail tablet running Windows 8.1 x64. There's no hint of when such a tablet might hit stores, but in a statement to CNet News, Microsoft said 64-bit Bay Trail systems will turn up "in the coming months."
What's taking so long? Apparently, there's a small technical hurdle on the road to 64-bitness: connected standby drivers. Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 told CNet News that a 64-bit version of those drivers was "prioritized toward the end of the list last year." The way he explains it, those drivers are needed to ensure good battery life.
Fully 64-bit Bay Trail tablets will, of course, be able to address a full 4GB of system memory—or more. But there's another selling point. According to Brookwood, "IT organizations want to standardize on 64-bit images and 64-bit apps." If Microsoft wants to sell Bay Trail tablets to businesses—and those devices are certainly speedy enough for productivity work—then 64-bit could be a big deal.
As for us non-enterprise folks, I think we'll enjoy the support for extra RAM. Bay Trail isn't a speed demon by any means, but it does have four cores and the ability to run the same software as higher-wattage desktop and notebook chips. 2GB of RAM does limit one's multitasking options considerably.