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Microsoft Hands Out Preview of Windows for AMD 64

NEW ORLEANS -- Microsoft gave hardware developers a taste of the Windows operating systems it is working on for AMD's 64-bit processors this week at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference.

The pre-beta code is another sign that Microsoft's once questionable commitment to supporting AMD's 64-bit processors seems to be getting firmer.

The company distributed disks containing preview versions of Windows XP 64-bit Edition and Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition for AMD processors. The Windows XP version will support both the Opteron, AMD's server version of the 64-bit processor that is available now, and the Athlon 64, the workstation version that is expected to ship in the third quarter. The Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition version is designed to support Opteron-based systems only. The company also distributed debug disks for both the Windows XP and Windows Server versions.

In a keynote on Wednesday, Microsoft corporate vice president for Windows Server Dave Thompson said support for AMD's 64-bit processors would coincide with the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 in late 2003.

AMD, which along with Intel is a major sponsor of the WinHEC event, is positioning itself to compete with Intel's Itanium processors as the foundation for 64-bit systems. AMD's current differentiator is its ability to run 32-bit applications in the 64-bit system at high performance levels. Intel's Itanium currently runs 32-bit applications in a slower emulation mode. But Intel is also planning to improve 32-bit performance on its Itanium chips in a future version.

Microsoft currently supports Itanium 2 in three 64-bit editions of its operating systems -- Windows XP Version 2003, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition, Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Server.

During the opening WinHEC keynote on Tuesday, Microsoft showed a demo of filmmaker George Lucas's production company running AMD 64-bit processors and the pre-release version of Windows to do pre-production work on Star Wars Episode III.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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