Microsoft Will Ship 32-Bit Longhorn Server

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Microsoft plans to ship 32-bit, x64 and Itanium versions of its Longhorn server operating system, company executives said this week.

Microsoft had earlier committed to shipping both 32-bit and x64 versions of the Longhorn client but had not shared a full list of hardware platforms it would support with the server version of the operating system, due in 2007. Last week, Windows chief Jim Allchin said a final decision had not been made on a 32-bit version of the server.

"We will support 32-bit and 64-bit," says Bob Kelly, a general manager in Microsoft's Windows Server Group, speaking during an interview on Wednesday. "We're in a transition period from 32-bit to 64-bit. We believe that will take a while."

Microsoft will ship a 32-bit version of the Longhorn server so customers can run the new operating system on existing server hardware. At the time the Longhorn server version ships, Microsoft expects the vast majority of new x86-based servers, if not all, will ship with x64 processors.

"Over the next year, about 70 percent of the systems will be x64. The whole hardware model will refresh very quickly," Kelly says. "A customer, when they buy a server, won't be going and choosing between 32-bit and 64-bit, they are going to buy a server and it will be 64-bit enabled."

Making the Switch

It took about nine years for users and software makers to fully transition to 64-bit on Sun Microsystems' Solaris, Kelly says. "It takes a while for customers and the ecosystem to come around and flip platforms," he says.

Microsoft does not expect the Windows transition to take that long. Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, has predicted that the move will be smooth and fast.

The Windows transition should be smoother than the Solaris migration because of the work Advanced Micro Devices and Intel have done to support both 32-bit and 64-bit applications on the same systems, Kelly says.

The Longhorn server will ship about six months after the client, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said Wednesday. The client is expected to be broadly available for the December 2006 shopping season. Ballmer spoke in a keynote presentation at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

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