Microsoft Unveils 64-Bit Windows Beta
Microsoft has made available the latest builds of its 64-bit version of Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2003 Enterprise, which each features a handful of new improvements including the Luna user interface, Windows Messenger, Windows Media Player, infrastructure support for Bluetooth, and the .Net Framework 1.1.
Company officials also announced on Wednesday they will change the name of the desktop version to Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. They are also changing the names of the various server versions of the product, which will now be called the Windows Server 2003 Standard x64 Edition, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise x64 Edition, and Windows Server 2003 Datacenter x64 Edition.
New in This Build
"With these builds we are essentially bringing the product to parity with the 32-bit version of Windows XP Pro and Home. The 64-bit versions now have the same UI and support for Bluetooth and wireless. This will help our partners to build drivers for a Blue Tooth device the same as they would for [the 32-bit version of] Windows XP Professional," says Brian Marr, product manager for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.
The one major difference between the 64-bit version and its 32-bit counterpart, of course, is its capability to directly address significantly more memory, which is vital for higher-end workstation users and server administrators.
"When we first started building the 64-bit product, it was really just targeted at high-end workstation users. The OS to them is a tool more than anything else to do things like build CAD designs. But then we started seeing a huge amount of interest among high-end enthusiast customers who were demanding things like Movie Maker, Windows Messenger, and Media Player," Marr says.
There have been 125,000 downloads of the product's previous build, according to company officials.
With this build Microsoft, has also added support for a range of different languages including Japanese, German, French, Swedish, Spanish, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.
Besides bringing the 64-bit desktop and server version to parity with their 32-bit counterparts, Microsoft plans to add to the 64-bit product all of the security improvements contained in the Windows XP Service Pack 2, which is expected to be available for download via Windows Update starting August 25.
"With the Service Pack  security improvements, the XP Pro and Home features, and the code base reliability of Server 2003 all in there, we think it makes for a very well balanced OS," Marr says.
Company officials say both Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 are still expected to be delivered simultaneously sometime during the first half of 2005.
Corporate users and third-party developers can download the code for free through Microsoft's Customer Preview Program or the beta preview program. Users and developers can also receive the product on a CD for free, although they must pay the shipping handling costs.
The new builds will work with 64-bit compatible chips from both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, Microsoft officials say.