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With microprocessors that can execute both 32-bit and 64-bit code natively available in mass quantities, their volumes growing, pricing declining and software that takes advantage of 64-bit execution emerging the industry seems to be ready for massive transition to 64-bit computing.

According to an Intel Corp.’s presentation at Intel Developer Forum Spring 2005 major software and hardware companies are either ready with their x86 64-bit capable applications or committed to deliver them relatively shortly. Among the mentioned are Ample Communications, ATI Technologies, Cakewalk, Emulex, HP, IBM, Dell, Hyperion, Microsoft, Micro Focus, Mellanox Technologies, Marvell, LSI Logic, NVIDIA Corp., Qlogic, Red Hat, TimesTen, Softimage, Transitive and UGS. Additionally, there are other software companies that expressed interest to support x86-64 platforms about two years ago.

But the main catalyst for 64-bit transition is Microsoft’s 64-bit Windows XP operating system possibly due next month. According to the exec of Microsoft, the company aims to ship desktop/workstation version of Windows XP Professional x64 in early April, 2005, with x86-64 flavour of Windows Server 2003 leaving the building in Redmond, Washington in late April, 2005.

According to Microsoft’s Jim Allchin, x64 native apps can bring more than 35% performance gain for applications, while the Windows XP x64 can even accelerate 32-bit software by 15% - 30%.

While the world’s top software maker is not usually accurate with release dates for its upcoming products, the statement concerning 64-bit desktop and server OS gives some backing to Intel’s recently announced desktop chips that support 64-bit capability. Besides that Microsoft’s representative also applauded Intel’s forthcoming innovations – multi-core processors as well as virtualization technology.

Microsoft originally planned to release its operating systems (OSes) for computers powered by x86 processors with 64-bit capability in late 2003 or early 2004. However, in mid-October 2003 the world’s largest software maker said it would only be in a position to ship the new products only in Q4 2004. April, 2005, release would put the final launch of Microsoft’s x64-64 operating systems into Q2 2005.

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. In case this happens with the OS update that does not exactly bring any tangible benefits for end-users just now, both Advanced Micro Devices, who pioneered the x86-64 technology back in 2000, and Intel Corp., who recently unveiled a lineup of IA32 64-bit products, may enjoy an uptick in microprocessor sales, which may also catalyze higher demand for hardware from other makers.

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