Windows Server update, 64-bit Windows closer to release

Microsoft on Tuesday released near final versions of Windows Server 2003 SP1 and 64-bit editions of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP.

Microsoft on Tuesday released near final versions of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.

Testing of the software is almost complete. The second "release candidates" made available to beta testers late Tuesday are the last test versions before final release of the software scheduled for later in the first half of 2005, according to Microsoft. Release Candidate 1 versions of the software were released in December.

Windows Server 2003 SP1 was originally slated for release by the end of last year, but Microsoft in October delayed the update. SP1 includes all the updates released for Windows Server 2003 since it shipped plus security, reliability and performance enhancements such as a new security configuration wizard.

SP1 also is the underlying technology for the Windows Server 2003 x64 releases and Windows Server 2003 R2, an interim Windows Server release slated for release in the fourth quarter of this year. R2 will include most of the feature packs Microsoft released since the initial Windows Server 2003, new storage management capabilities and such features such as branch server management, Microsoft has said.

With its new 64-bit versions, Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Microsoft is providing users with the option of running both 32-bit and 64-bit applications on the same system. The operating system is designed to work on newer 64-bit processors from Advanced Micro Devices and Intel.

In preparing for final release of the products, Microsoft is asking hardware makers to submit products for the Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions "Designed for Windows" logo programs. The logos are designed to help customers identify which products will work well with the Windows versions.

Windows Server 2003 SP1 Release Candidate 2 (RC2) is available for download from Microsoft's Web site. RC2 versions of Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition are available for members of the Microsoft technical beta program, the company said.

Windows XP Professional x64 Edition will also be available through Microsoft's customer preview program, the company said.

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