RealTime IT News

WOW64 for AMD Released to the Public

In anticipation of a full-blown launch this summer, Microsoft has released trial software to the public for its Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems.

The software, which can either be ordered via CD or downloaded (approximately 450 megabytes), is only compatible with AMD Athlon 64 powered desktops or Opteron processor-powered workstations. The trial version will not work on 64-bit Intel Itanium-based systems, the company said.

Early on, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft dubbed the technology Windows on Windows 64 (WOW64), claiming a key benefit of the update will be to allow customers who have Windows XP-compatible 32-bit applications run those applications on the 64-bit operating system. Microsoft also claimed that the WOW64 architecture would enable compatibility of those 32-bit applications without a loss of performance "in nearly all cases."

Microsoft and AMD -- while noting that the 64-bit platform will be a boon to engineering and scientific projects, financial services, online transaction processing, data warehousing and computer-aided design -- are also positioning Windows 64-bit as a consumer option, pointing to the possibilities it opens for gaming and digital media.

"This is an opportunity for you to begin evaluating Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems for your individual business needs and ensuring that your applications will be ready for the commercial release of the product," the company said.

The CD is available only in English at this time and is working on localized versions of the public trial software for a later date. In addition to only running on Athlon64 or Opteron, the trial version needs at least 256MB RAM; 1.5GB of available hard-disk space; and a Super VGA (800x600) or higher resolution video card. The pre-release software is also time-limited and will expire in 360 days.

The new operating system steals a march on Microsoft's close partner -- and AMD's arch-rival -- Intel , which has long argued that 64-bit still belongs to the large scale systems and is only now considering making an x86-64 processor for desktops.

Intel officials, including President and COO Paul Otellini, have argued that most desktops won't need more than 4GB of memory -- the current limit for 32-bit processors -- until the end of the decade. Because of that, the company has said in the past that it won't need to develop a 64-bit desktop processor until 2008 or 2009. Instead, it plans to continue pushing its high value, high margin 64-bit Itanium processors for the heavy-duty computing.

An XP 64-bit trial version by Microsoft may be just the thing to quiet critics that contend markets wouldn't adopt 64-bit architectures until Microsoft and a few other major vendors throw their weight behind it. Gartner Dataquest , for one, believes 64-bit systems will start becoming necessary around 2005, as more applications demand memory systems larger than 32-bit systems can handle. The analyst firm also projects 64-bit systems will become mainstream by 2007.

Microsoft said its Customer Preview Program (CPP) subscribers, are able to upgrade to future pre-release versions of Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems when they become available. Microsoft said its CPP participants would even be notified when future code is released.

The company has even gone out of its way to set up a private newsgroup for technical issues discussions. Microsoft said fee-based support from Microsoft would be available when the final version is released.