Today, Microsoft announced that it is extending its 64-bit version of Windows XP to support AMD's new 64-bit microprocessor architecture, dubbed AMD64, and is publicly releasing a beta version of the OS. Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems, as the OS is called, targets AMD's Athlon 64 and Opteron processors, which support full 64-bit capabilities as well as full-speed backwards compatibility with 32-bit Intel x86-based chips, a feature Intel's 64-bit Itanium chips lack. AMD is launching the Athlon 64, a desktop chip, today as well. The other member of the AMD64 platform, the Opteron, is aimed at workstations and servers, the company says.
"This new 64 bit-Windows platform provides customers with new levels of compatibility and capability," a Microsoft representative told me late Monday. "Customers who invest in 64-bit technology with the AMD Athlon 64 or AMD Opteron processors can run their current 32-bit applications on the 64-bit operating system due to Microsoft’s Windows on Windows 64 (WOW64) emulation technology. The WOW64 architecture takes advantage of AMD's hardware architecture to ensure compatibility with 32-bit applications without a loss of performance, protecting customers' current and future technology investments."
XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems, like the AMD64 systems on which it will run, is designed for high-performance computing scenarios, such as advanced gaming, digital content creation, video editing, engineering and scientific projects, financial services, online transaction processing, data warehousing, and computer-aided design (CAD). Because they support a 64-bit address space, systems based on these processors can use more than the 4 GB of RAM to which 32-bit systems are limited. But because they are also fully compatible with the 32-bit systems of the past, users can still run today's popular applications like Microsoft Office at full speed.
"Windows XP and AMD64 hold the promise of bringing 64-bit computing to a whole new set of computer users, delivering immersive, cinema-quality user experiences for gaming and working with digital media," says Dirk Meyer, the senior vice president of the Computation Products Group at AMD. "AMD and Microsoft have worked together to help ensure customers will be able to run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications on a single platform. They are able to invest in the future now."
XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems is available now to MSDN subscribers, and Microsoft expects to release the final version of the product in the first half of 2004. Additionally, the company says it will finalize Windows Server 2003 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems in the first half of 2004; the server version is aimed at the Opteron processor and is also available now in beta form.