Windows rolls into the 64-bit era

Von Ed Scannell

Microsoft last week delivered its first 64-bit server and desktop versions of Windows, and immediately set out to encourage hardware developers to deliver systems that will make 64-bit computing common across the industry.

At its annual WinHEC, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates showed characteristic confidence, predicting that the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit computing would happen sooner rather than later.

?The changeover to 64-bit computing [from 32-bit computing] will happen much more quickly, particularly at the server level, than any other platform changeover. It will be the driving force behind Windows for the next decade, but it will bring us our greatest level of competition as well,? Gates said in a speech at the show.

Gates said he expects 64-bit systems to be ?mainstream? by the end of 2006, which coincidentally is when the company expects to deliver the desktop version of its next-generation 64-bit OS, code-named Longhorn. The server version of Longhorn is due in 2007.

Microsoft gave its 64-bit initiative a major push forward by rolling out its first three 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 and the 64-bit desktop version of Windows, called Windows XP Professional x64.

Microsoft also took the wraps off a new printing-document specification and set of printer drivers, code-named Metro, which will be incorporated into Longhorn. The new spec allows users to share, print, and archive documents with greater fidelity.