Windows Betas for AMD Opteron Coming in Mid-2003

Microsoft on Wednesday reinforced its commitment to AMD's Opteron processor with an announcement that it will put out beta versions of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP that run the AMD 64-bit processor in mid-2003.

AMD plans to launch Opteron later this month, at the same time that Microsoft will ship 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP for Intel's rival 64-bit technology, the Itanium 2. AMD is releasing the AMD Opteron for servers and workstations. It plans to release an AMD Athlon 64 processor for desktops and laptops in September.

Architecturally, AMD decided to stick with the x86 instruction set for the 64-bit chip, meaning 32-bit and 64-bit applications can run natively on the same processor. Intel chose a new instruction set for its Itanium Family, meaning 32-bit applications must run in an emulation mode, which imposes a performance penalty.

Microsoft remains vague about details. A Microsoft spokesman said no decisions have been made on packaging, on a general availability date or on pricing. For example, it has not been determined, whether there will be a specific version of the operating system specifically for the AMD Opteron and Athlon 64 or whether the support would come in the form of a download add-on.

The current versions of 64-bit Windows servers, which were released to manufacturing last week, are specifically named for the Itanium 2 processor. They are Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition for 64-bit Itanium 2 Systems and Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition for 64-bit Itanium 2 Systems. A 64-bit client, Windows XP 64-bit Edition Version 2003, also reached the RTM milestone last month and supports the Itanium 2 processors.

In the fourth quarter of 2002, Microsoft had delivered a development release for partners of the operating system and development tools for AMD's 64-bit chips. But plans for a formal beta program around AMD's processors represent a higher level of public commitment to the chips than Microsoft had previously made to AMD, a competitor of Microsoft's close partner Intel.

About the Author

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