Microsoft hails 64-bit Windows

Hoping to give 64-bit processing a boost, Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced two versions of Windows that will support Intel Corp.'s Itanium 64-bit processor, which is due to hit the market shortly.

Microsoft's 64-bit Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition is scheduled for final release to coincide with general commercial availability of Itanium-based systems next week from computer hardware makers.

Also, a workstation version of Windows XP built for 64-bit processing will ship on Oct. 25, when the Redmond, Wash. company's 32-bit Windows XP desktop systems are slated to launch.

Microsoft will fully support Windows XP 64-Bit Edition through the Early Deployment Program before its final release, according to company officials.

"Microsoft is fully committed to the Itanium program and is working closely with Intel, our customers, and industry partners to ensure that Windows provides unmatched support for 64-bit computing and that the best of the industry's hardware and software is available when we launch," said Brian Valentine, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows Division, in a statement.

Valentine pledged Microsoft's help in getting software vendors to write to the Itanium processor. Microsoft said its applications, such as the SQL Server relational database, eventually will be written for 64-bit processing, though company officials did not offer a timeframe for that effort.

"The problem any potential clients of IA-64 have been facing is a really high reluctance to put any operating system into production that doesn't have full support," said analyst John Enck, a senior research director at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc. "Microsoft's support, though, does open the door for very small opportunities for Itanium to go into production."

"This certainly shows a better working relationship between Microsoft and Intel than they've shown in the past year," Enck said. "Microsoft's got the SQL Server 64-bit version on the way. Will people rush to put all of this into production? Probably not. But it will serve as an infrastruture to drive the next wave of [64-bit] applications."

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