Re: Solving Polynomials on a VAX
Everyone also needs to look at this from the viewpoint that software drives hardware sales, and the two do not operate in isolation. Since the late 80s at the very least, and almost certainly considerably before then, the CPU manufacturers have asked the major OS producers what they want (starting with Microsoft asking for a faster way of switching from V86 mode to protected mode on the 386).
If the CPUs aren't in a state you think they should be, the largest OS creators don't want it to be that way, probably due to compatibility concerns, or unnecessary effort.
When intel went on their itanium crusade, AMD picked up the parts of the market that intel wasn't addressing - namely large memory support for the general x86 market. The changes in architecture to allow many more registers in x64 mode, and the limited number of protection rings were almost certainly driven by asking OS creators what they actually used (OS/2 is one of the very few x86 operating systems to use more than two protection rings, and then only rarely), coupled with limitations on what AMD could actually get to market fast enough to create a commercial advantage.
The PowerPC chips used by Apple, and by IBM in their i/p series were different (cheaper, less features for Apple). AMD have provided custom CPUs to Apple.
Then you have AMD's desperate APU architecture, which is almost certainly driven entirely by them and not by the OS manufacturers in order to sell more chips. It's never been included in AMD's high end (so they're not serious about it), and software support has been lacklustre.
I'd also note that for everyone that says (quite accurately) that a lot of modern tasks can be run in a browser, that even the non Windows world is extremely intel centric. It's true that whilst Linux runs on several (I can't be bothered to count) platforms, NetBSD on 57 platforms, OpenBSD on 13, and FreeBSD on 8ish, all platforms are not equal. A lot of those systems don't have a usable X server, and of the ones that do, many don't have a functional mainstream web browser as it involves a set of dependencies way longer than your arm.
The one architecture that might be considered a vaguely viable modern intel alternative, ARM, is extremely fragmented, nowhere near as fast as intel, and plagued by binary blobs. POWER systems are beyond the reach of the average user, even in their cheaper (~£3Kish) configurations.
 Yes, I remember PAE. It's horrid, and driver support was buggy.