Windows 7 drives RAM capacity explosion; Vista SP2 usage rising

Real-world usage data also suggests that the popularity of multicore CPUs will soon hit critical mass for developers

Windows 7 will drive the average PC RAM capacity to 4GB in the next 18 months. That's the conclusion of researchers at the exo.performance.network who are monitoring the ramp-up to Windows 7's launch on October 22. After evaluating data collected from early adopters of the Windows 7 RTM code spread across several hundred IT sites, the xpnet.com team observed that nearly 50 percent sported memory capacities of 4GB or higher, with some reaching as high as 12GB.

The average of all Windows 7 PCs was 3.7GB, which is in stark contrast to Windows XP PCs, where the average RAM capacity (for all versions) hovers at just under 1.7GB. Windows 7 RAM installations also best Vista's average of 2.7GB. In fact, the move from a Vista-centric world to one defined by Windows 7 will likely drive a jump in RAM capacity (by 33 percent) comparable to the one experienced during the transition from Windows XP to Vista (a jump of 37 percent in installed RAM).

[ Is your PC ready to run Windows 7? Find out by using InfoWorld's Windows Sentinel tool, which also lets you track performance and other aspects of your Windows PCs and servers. ]

Note: You can check out the latest data from the exo.repository by visiting InfoWorld's Windows Pulse page. There you'll find a collection of dynamic chart objects that provide a real-time view into data gathered from xpnet.com's nearly 20,000 contributing members.

The bottom line: While much has been made about Windows 7's supposedly reduced memory footprint, the reality is that a combination of Moore's Law (as it applies to RAM density) and the harsh lessons of the Vista debacle are prompting customers to err on the side of caution and equip Windows 7 PCs with ample RAM out of the gate.

[ If the charts in this story are not visible, you can see them in the original story at InfoWorld.com. ]

Vista SP2 adoption rising
The adoption rate for Windows Vista Service Pack 2 ticked up a bit over the past few weeks. After lagging behind Service Pack 1 by a wide margin, SP2 is now gaining momentum, with nearly 20 percent of PCs reporting the newer service pack level. Meanwhile, the number of systems reporting SP1 installed dropped 2 percentage points (now 72 percent), as did the few laggards still running the Vista RTM release (now at just under 8 percent).

Given the breadth of bug fixes and performance enhancements provide by Vista SP2, including improvements to Bluetooth support and an improved wireless networking stack, xpnet.com researchers expect the adoption rate to climb steadily as IT shops finish internal testing and deploy it more widely. However, they also note that this trend may be tempered somewhat by the conversion of many long-term Vista deployment projects to Windows 7 when it becomes available.

Multicore pushes single-core into the minority
One development the xpnet.com team has been watching closely is the transition from single- to multicore CPUs. Data from the exo.respository indicates that multicore is now the dominant CPU architecture, with fully 57 percent of the installed base sporting CPUs with two or more cores. This should signal the tipping point for application developers who have been waiting for the technology to reach critical mass before investing in additional multithreading development/multicore tuning for the core product lines. As InfoWorld's tests show, Windows 7 is strongly poised to take advantage of multicore PCs, more so than XP and Vista.

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