In a bid to placate AMD, Intel and its own customers, Microsoft has voiced plans to let users upgrade from the current Windows Server 2003 to a 64-bit version of the operating system at no charge.
Customers that purchase a new server running on either AMD's Opteron chip or Intel's new 64-bit Xeon processors are eligible for this deal, according to a report from CNET. Microsoft earlier this week irked world+dog by delaying a 64-bit version of its server operating system yet again, saying the software will not arrive until the first half of 2005. Many in the industry had once expected the OS to ship by the end of 2003.
One could see AMD as the primary beneficiary of Microsoft's announcement. The company rushed to gets its x86-64-bit product out before rival Intel, hoping to gain a stronger position in the server market. Thus far, however, users have only been able to take advantage of the 64-bit extensions by running new versions of Linux. The 64-bit Windows delays certainly helped Intel, which just recently introduced 64-bit Xeons, catch up to its rival. Still, AMD does have a lead of sorts over Intel in the x86-64-bit market and now has a better way to tempt Windows users into trying out its gear.
Microsoft has tied the 64-bit support to its release of the first service pack for Windows Server 2003, which is one of the main reasons for all these delays.
Microsoft next week will also release a new beta of 64-bit Windows Server 2003 for both Opteron and Intel chips, according to the CNET report. The previous beta only supported Opteron.
Microsoft's pay now, upgrade later plan is a nice boost for customers. Users can buy high-performing gear now, run their 32-bit code and then bulk up to 64-bit Windows on that fateful day when Microsoft finally gets its act together.
This move should also temper months of stories about Microsoft's inability to help its partners along. Here you have AMD and Intel working their tails off to give customers a reason to buy new gear only to see the world's wealthiest tech firm make 64-bit computing seem like a joke. Now when analysts charge Microsoft with doing nothing on the x86-64-bit front, it can respond by saying, "We are doing something." And that's always nice. ®
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