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Microsoft Kills XP Workstation for Itanium

UPDATED Microsoft has shut the window on its workstation operating system for Intel's Itanium 2 processors.

The decision to disconue reflects a trend in the marketplace to focus on 32-bit and 64-bit x86 systems by Intel and AMD .

However, the company said it will continue to promote and offer Windows Server 2003 Enterprise and Datacenter Editions for Itanium-based systems.

The decision to drop Windows XP for workstations is barely shocking, considering the exodus in the OEM workstation marketplace. When the original chip design was introduced in 2000, HP along with IBM and Dell all pledged support for the processor and promised to include it in their workstation products.

HP abandoned its Itanium workstation product lines back in September 2004. Dell dropped production of Itanium workstations in 2002, IBM shortly afterward.

Microsoft's departure doesn't necessarily mean the death of the Itanium workstation. If one of Intel's OEM customers wanted to do an Itanium workstation, that reseller would have other options such as Linux. Red Hat and SUSE still support a Workstation variant of their respective operating systems.

"Because Windows on x64 systems delivers excellent flexibility and choice, while also enabling a smooth migration from 32-bit to 64-bit applications, Microsoft believes Windows for Itanium-based systems is a stronger offering in the high-end server market," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

"For the mainstream server and workstation markets, however, we believe we can best serve our customers needs with Windows Server 2003 Standard x64 Edition, and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, respectively."

Microsoft also said Release Candidate 1 of Windows XP Server 2003 Standard x64 Edition is now available for testers. The company released the Professional x64 Edition just before Christmas. The final version of Professional x64 could ship as early as March barring a successful Release Candidate 2 in the next two months.

Even Intel was not surprised by the news. A spokeswoman said Microsoft is still very much aligned with the chipmaker in their joint focus for Itanium on high-end systems.

"We've been very clear that workstations is not the market for Itanium," the spokeswoman told internetnews.com. "Workstations are better for Xeon and our 64-bit Xeon processors. Itanium is based more on that high-end RISC replacement market."

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