Microsoft to Offer Free 64-Bit Windows Upgrade to Some Customers

Even though it won't ship its 64-bit Windows Server releases until mid-2005, Microsoft is still working to seed the market.

Microsoft acknowledged earlier this week that it wont ship its new 64-bit Windows server versions until mid-2005. But that doesnt mean Microsoft is content to leave the 64-bit market to Solaris and Unix customers, according to officials with the Redmond, Wash., software vendor.

Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on what its calling the "x64 Technology Exchange Program." Via this program—which Microsoft will launch "in the near future," company officials said—Microsoft will allow customers with Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Opteron and Intel Corp. Xeon processors on EM64T servers running 32-bit Windows to exchange their operating system for the forthcoming 64-bit Windows Server 2003 variants for free.

In addition, on Monday, Microsoft is set to release another beta version of its Windows Server 2003 64-bit software for AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon with EM64T platforms. Microsoft is broadening the beta to any and all interested parties. (Microsoft officials said 20,000 individuals downloaded the "Customer Preview Program" beta release since it debuted in January.)

Starting August 2, customers will be able to place orders for Windows Server 2003 64-bit CDs on Microsofts Web site.

The new beta will add support for AMD Opteron, as well as Microsofts .Net Framework, which will be built into the updated beta release, said Dennis Oldroyd, director of Microsofts Windows Server business group.

Microsoft officials admitted earlier this week that the company is delaying the final release of its Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition product family from late 2004 to some time by mid-2005. Microsoft also is delaying until mid-2005 final delivery of Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which it has been developing in tandem with the 64-bit server releases.


Read more about the SP1 security feature list planned for Server 2003.

Company officials attributed the 64-bit Windows Server date slip to the slip in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), as many of the SP2 features are set to be included in Windows Server 2003 SP1. Windows XP SP2 is slated to go gold in August.

Oldroyd denied that Microsoft is instituting the exchange program to stave off possible defections by 64-bit customers to Solaris or Unix, 64-bit versions of which are available to customers today.

"Over the next 12 to 36 months, we expect the customer view to shift on 64-bit," Oldroyd said. "First we expect the boxes to come. Later, the applications will follow.

"We think were still very early in the [64-bit] cycle. But the market is definitely going to go there," Oldroyd added.

At its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in March, Microsoft made a plea to developers to begin developing native 64-bit Windows client and server drivers, as it expects 64-bit servers to catch on rapidly with customers.


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