CANONICAL HAS ANNOUNCED that it will drop 32-bit support for Ubuntu in a forthcoming release.
Starting with the forthcoming Ubuntu 19.10 (Eoan Ermine, apparently), Ubuntu builds will be available in 64-bit versions only, tapping another nail into the coffin of the ageing architecture.
The move is an extension of last year's rollout of the recently-patched Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. Because that will be supported for five years, Ubuntu decided not to release a 32-bit edition, and prevented those on a previous 32-bit build from upgrading - a fresh install was required in 64-bit.
Canonical is keen to point out that unless you have a creaky old lappy, it won't really change anything - 32-bit apps won't run in 64-bit Ubuntu directly, but many of the most popular apps that don't have a native 64-bit version are either already Ubuntu Snaps, or can be easily turned into them.
The company will release details of what users need to do to be ready for version 19.10 ahead of its release in October 2019. Once the beta is ready, there'll be a lot more detail, in case anyone fancies updating early.
The specification for x64 (64-bit) was first released in 2000 by AMD before being adopted by competitors as the first major change to the x86 architecture. Although it is backwards compatible with 32-bit in theory, it isn't the only 64-bit architecture, merely the most common. As such, to appeal to the widest possible audience, Ubuntu will be forced to ditch 32-bit compatibility altogether in favour of virtualisation of legacy apps.
The vast majority of computers sold today have 64-bit architecture but many Windows apps have remained in 32-bit builds for compatibility reasons. As such, nearly twenty years on, 32-bit is still as prevalent as ever, and its actually slowing progress down somewhat.
Hopefully, the ballsy move by Canonical will start to drip down to other operating systems (Android has been almost exclusively x64 for some time) and we can finally shake off the shackles of history. Which all sounds posher than it really is. μ
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