Microsoft offers exchange program to shift 64-bit OS

Microsoft this week will issue a revision to the latest beta of its Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit Extended Systems and offer a license exchange program for users who buy 64-bit hardware before the final version of the operating system ships next year.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that the release of the 64-bit Extended Systems operating system, due to ship by the end of the year, was being pushed into the first half of next year. Microsoft officials admit that interest in 64-bit platforms is not past the evaluation stage but they don’t want interest to wane now that the operating system is delayed.

The company will allow users that purchase a computer with x64 chips from either AMD or Intel with the 32-bit Windows Server 2003 operating system to exchange the 32-bit license for a 64-bit Extended Systems license when that software ships.

While the 32-bit and the 64-bit operating systems will be priced the same, the offer “future-proofs” the hardware investments of users, according to Dennis Oldroyd, director of the Windows server business group.

Oldroyd said some 20,000 copies of the 64-bit Extended Systems operating system have been downloaded since a customer preview program began in July. The latest beta revision, which will be available on Aug. 2, will now ship with a copy of the .Net Framework.

In addition to getting the operating system finished, Microsoft also is working on driver and application compatibility. Oldroyd would not comment on any certification programs the company might be developing for the new 64-bit platform, but said Microsoft is working with ISVs to get their programs ready.

So far, Microsoft itself has but one application that runs natively on a 64-bit architecture, SQL Server for Itanium. The x64 chip will run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications and Oldroyd says that flexibility will be a primary attraction to the platform since 32-bit applications will enjoy some performance enhancements.

The operating system increases the performance and scale of 32-bit database applications by 17%, boosts Active Directory throughput by 2% and will support 50% more users on Terminal Services, according to Microsoft.

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John Fontana

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