Spruced up 64-bit Windows beta ready

Microsoft on Wednesday made available the latest builds of its 64-bit version of Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2003 Enterprise, that each features a handful of new improvements including the Luna user interface, Windows Messenger, Windows Media Player, infrastructure support for Bluetooth, and the .Net Framework 1.1.

Company officials also announced on Wednesday they would be changing the name of the desktop version to Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. They are also changing the names of the various server versions of the product which will now be called the Windows Server 2003 Standard x64 Edition, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise x64 Edition, and Windows Server 2003 Datacenter x64 Edition.

"With these builds we are essentially bringing the product to parity with the 32-bit version of Windows XP Pro and Home. The 64-bit versions now have the same UI and support for Bluetooth and wireless. This will help our partners to build drivers for a Blue Tooth device the same as they would for (the 32-bit version of) Windows XP Professional," said Brian Marr, product manager for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.

The one major difference between the 64-bit version and its 32-bit counterpart, of course, is its ability to directly address significantly more memory, which is vital for higher-end workstation users and server administrators.

"When we first started building the 64-bit product, it was really just targeted at high-end workstation users. The OS to them is a tool more than anything else to do things like build CAD designs. But then we started seeing a huge amount of interest among high-end enthusiast customers who were demanding things like Movie Maker, Windows Messenger, and Media Player," Marr said.

There have been 125,000 downloads of the product's previous build, according to company officials.

Besides bringing the 64-bit desktop and server version to parity with their 32-bit counterparts, Microsoft plans to add to the 64-bit product all of the security improvements contained in the Windows XP Service Pack 2 , which is expected to be available for download via Windows Update starting Aug. 25.

"With the Service Pack (2) security improvements, the (Windows) XP Pro and Home features, and the code base reliability of (Windows) Server 2003 all in there, we think it makes for a very well balanced OS," Marr said.

Company officials said both Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 are still expected to be delivered simultaneously sometime during the first half of 2005.

Corporate users and third-party developers can download the code for free through the Customer Preview Program (CPP) starting today at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/64bit/evaluation/upgrade.mspx, as well as at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/64bit/extended/trial/default.mspx.

Users and developers can also receive the product on a CD for free, although they must pay the shipping handling costs.

The new builds will work with 64-bit compatible chips from both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, company officials said.

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