Personally, I was surprised that Windows 7 supported 32 bit processors at all, considering the system requirements for Vista. They improved things quite a bit from Vista, but I still think 7 should have been 64-bit only. Windows 8, definitely should have been 64-bit only (on x86). I'm guessing they left the support in for 32-bit tablets.
In 2006 at the end I've had a Pentium M 1.73 Ghz (Donthan) that offered decent performance for XP, and I've upgraded for Vista. I think that using the same hardware Windows 7 would be the next logical step (to upgrade).
Windows 7 works on notebooks and also they are working in lower end machines (mostly on memory specs) where 64 bit brings no advantage, or if is any, please point it out.
Windows 8 to be 64 bit only? Why? It uses basically the same specs as Windows 7 or Vista. 32 bit brings in itself some advantages, including that if you target a software package for a 32 bit Windows, you know that it will work with XP. And if you think that most XP users are owners of 32 bit machines, and some of Win7 users are on 32 bit machine too, I see no reason why Microsoft would not want to not support such of a wide user base.
At the end I'm thinking that Linux should follow the same path, and not only for tablets: running on more platforms means that they can enjoy the beauty of Linux. Remember Ubuntu PowerPC? Many Mac users were exposed to it: if you don't want to upgrade your Mac every time with 130 dollars (as it was at the time), you will get a newer Unix like experience for just writing it on a CD.
At the end, Linux is used a lot in schools, I know they use it in Spain. Why not allow users to upgrade their beloved OS with the newest Ubuntu, Suse or Fedora?
So I'm writing this on my trusty T42, e.g. 32bit Pentium-M. Now lets rightfully assume that in 2 years from now, I won't be using it anymore and will have a 64bit capable laptop.
I also have an accesspoint, a WRT54GL that works very well still. Matter of fact, I don't think any consumerrouters exist that have a 64bit CPU. So until all these consumer devices are long gone, which can be 20 years easy, I don't see 32bit architecture go away anytime soon.
"however, those users seem to be left in the dust in many ways anyway, mainly due to GPU support associated by the P4's (and older) generation. "
indeed, you are forced to upgrade anyway and upgrading means 64 bit so what's the point of supporting stuff like pentium 4's if people can't really run the latest distros
Like I said in that other thread where you're rating with this, I have a 10 year old laptop (the processor in it is, surprise, surprise, Pentium 4), it still works fine. Because instead of ranting, I actually wrote the four simple lines of X configuration required to get it working fine. Sure I couldn't run gnome shell or unity on it, but who is forcing you to?
This doom and gloom of "being left in the dust" and "being forced to upgrade" is just plain ridiculous. It might be true for a few distros, but you're not being forced to use them, there's plenty of other choices, and by that I don't just mean LTS distros like CentOS.
tbh i think windows 7 should've been the last serious 32 bit release - it would help force people to move away from their P4s. as for linux, there hasn't really been a compelling reason to use 32 bit unless you are a p4 (or older) user. the only difference is linux is still pretty good with that older hardware, so ditching support for it would be annoying for such users. however, those users seem to be left in the dust in many ways anyway, mainly due to GPU support associated by the P4's (and older) generation.
Acutally some of Intel's latest CPUs are still only 32bit (the Atom z-series). They are used in some Windows 7 tablets like the HP slate series. Microsoft probably didn't think it was time to drop support for them just yet.