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A report over InfoWorld web-site says current beta version of Microsoft Windows XP 64-bit Edition operating system cannot be installed on servers and workstations based on Intel Xeon processors with “Nocona” core supporting EM64T from Intel. Microsoft’s officials confirmed this, saying that the operating system was configured to run only on AMD64 chips.

Windows Detects AMD64 Chips

Currently available beta version of Microsoft Windows XP 64-bit Edition was only tested to run on AMD64 central processing units and thus detects whether an AMD Athlon 64 or AMD Opteron powers the PC during the installation process. The reason for this is that Microsoft’s specialist did not test any other chips apart from two mentioned with the company’s forthcoming operating system.

While AMD and Intel’s processors with 64-bit extensions are generally compatible, some capabilities of the chips are not equal. For example, AMD sports 3DNow! instructions, while Intel sports Hyper-Threading technology. Furthermore, chips may handle different instructions in different way, therefore, Microsoft will need to do some additional work in order to ensure flawless compatibility with Intel’s microprocessors.

Intel and Microsoft have promised that the final versions of both Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit extended systems will run on Xeon and Opteron servers without any hitches, according to the report. Currently Microsoft is working on another beta version of Windows XP 64-bit that will be compatible with Intel’s chips.

Transition to 64-bit Inevitable

“The shift to 64-bit computing on the desktop is nearly here… This is going to be a really wonderful transition,” Bill Gates promised during an hour-long talk at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle earlier this year.

Right now the software giant is making tremendous efforts to convince hardware manufacturers to develop drivers for forthcoming 64-bit operating systems for desktops. The necessity for the move is very high, as with no drivers for the majority of hardware, personal computers with 64-bit processors with 64-bit OS will not become popular among end-users.

Microsoft Corporation is projected to deliver a version of Windows XP for 64-bit x86 processors by the end of the year and it means that at least some hardware used in personal computers should function properly with such operating system.

Microsoft and its products have historically been a major driving force for technology progress. In the past, the new versions of the company’s operating systems encouraged customers to switch to newer hardware, including Pentium 4 processors from Intel. But as Intel keeps away from desktop 64-bit chips right now, its arch-rival AMD is gaining momentum with its Athlon 64 and Opteron processors for mobile, desktop and server applications that can work in both 32-bit and 64-bit modes.

By the end of next year nearly all CPUs from Advanced Micro Devices will be 64-bit capable, according to estimations. With hundreds of thousands and millions of AMD64 chips shipped in 2003 and to be supplied in 2004 respectively, there is a huge target market for Microsoft’s new operating systems that take advantage of the x86-64 technology.

Intel promised to deliver its desktop processors with 64-bit capabilities when there is a right infrastructure to support such chips, e.g. operating system and enough drivers for various types of hardware. With Windows XP for 64-bit desktop machines coming later this year, Intel should address the emerging market.

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