Microsoft to Support AMD's 64-bit Processors

Microsoft Corp. ended the debate over whether it would support Intel rival AMD's 64-bit processors in addition to Intel's 64-bit Itanium family. In a statement Wednesday, AMD announced that Microsoft will support its 64-bit processors in Windows.

AMD also announced Wednesday that it will call its 64-bit processors AMD Opteron. The chips had previously gone by the codename Hammer. AMD does not plan to ship the processors until the first half of 2003.

Microsoft's decision to support Opteron means Windows customers interested in 64-bit computing will have a choice between two architectures. Intel introduced an entirely new architecture for its 64-bit processors. The first generation came out last year and have seen limited adoption. Intel plans to release its second generation of 64-bit processors, codenamed "McKinley," this year.

Intel's Itanium architecture brings new capabilities to the processor family, but it also means that 32-bit applications run with a heavy performance penalty on Itanium chips. AMD will use the x86 architecture in its 64-bit processors, meaning 32-bit applications will perform well on 64-bit systems.

"AMD's 8th-generation architecture gives customers great 32-bit performance and 64-bit capabilities on a single system," Dave Cutler, senior distinguished engineer on the Microsoft Windows Team, said in a statement supporting AMD's announcement.

Cutler said the processor assists Microsoft's vision for 64-bit computing as "a highly scalable and affordable platform that is easy to deploy, easy to manage and easy to develop applications for."

AMD planned to demonstrate a dual-processor system running AMD Opteron processors and a developmental 64-bit version of Windows at its shareholders meeting on Thursday in New York.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.