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64-bit world moves closer

The days of 32-bit systems seem to be numbered with two of the industry’s biggest players progressing with their 64-bit plans.

The days of 32-bit systems seem to be numbered with two of the industry’s biggest players progressing with their 64-bit plans.

First up was Microsoft which earlier this month moved closer to the launch of a 64-bit Windows XP version, with the availability of trial software for users. The company has made a trial version of Windows XP 64-Bit Edition available for order on CD or as a download. The software is designed to work with AMD's Athlon 64 or Opteron processors, and won't work with Intel's existing 64-bit offering, the Itanium chip.

While Microsoft stresses on its web site that the software is for testing and evaluation purposes only, the closer the company gets to a full launch of XP 64-Bit Edition, the happier AMD will be. The company wants the 64-bit OS to be available, so that application developers will write applications that take full advantage of 64-bit computing.

AMD’s success with its 64-bit Athlon was widely seen as giving impetus to Intel’s own 64-bit plans, and at its Developer Forum in San Francisco, US, the chip giant duly announced a new server chip based on its x86 architecture that comes with 64-bit extensions, making it 32 and 64-bit compatible. CEO Craig Barrett acknowledged that the new chip, code-named Nocona, was “one of the worst-kept secrets in San Francisco.”

The new chip will appear in the second quarter of this year. While Intel is now in a position to bring 64-bit chips to the PC world, it is still claiming that it has no plans to do so right now, citing the relative lack of desktop software available. This of course has been held up by Microsoft’s slowness to deliver a 64-bit version of Windows.
When it does come, XP 64-Bit Edition is likely to be compatible with both AMD’s and Intel’s 32/64-bit chips, giving developers a stronger incentive to write applications for the OS. AMD now claims to have more than 1,000 developers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) working on the platform.

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