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Commentary: Several factors will limit demand for 64-bit Windows 2000

Most businesses will greet the latest beta of Microsoft's 64-bit version of Windows 2000 with little interest.

By Neil MacDonald, Gartner Analyst

Most businesses will greet the latest beta of Microsoft's 64-bit version of Windows 2000--and indications that the product is nearly complete--with little interest.

Several factors will limit enterprise demand for this operating system (OS).

First, businesses running

See news story:
Microsoft ready to send 64-bit Windows 2000 to developers
applications that require high scalability have already turned to Unix operating systems, especially Solaris. Most of these already have 64-bit versions that are shipping today with applications to run on them.

Second, widespread availability of systems based on Intel's IA-64 Itanium chip will take time to appear and longer to become cost-competitive. Although Microsoft may soon be able to ship its 64-bit OS, systems based on IA-64 will not become widely available until late in 2000.

Third, since Microsoft's OS and IA-64 systems are not yet ready, application developers have yet to see significant demand for 64-bit versions of their products. The lack of compelling applications will slow adoption of 64-bit Windows.

Fourth, systems based on the first generation of Intel's Itanium chip will have only a short useful life span and are not upgradeable. Gartner expects Intel to release its second-generation Itanium chip (code-named McKinley) in the first quarter of 2002.

Businesses should understand that Microsoft's primary motivation for pushing its 64-bit OS is marketing--to have a story to tell when comparisons are made to high-end 64-bit Unix systems.

But given the immaturity of the hardware, OS and applications, most businesses are unlikely to consider it worthwhile to implement the first Win64 systems other than for evaluating, testing and development. Use of Win64 in production environments will be scant in 2001 and 2002.

In general, the Windows-on-IA-64 market will be a slowly growing niche market. Recognizing this, many software vendors, including Microsoft, will use the Itanium launch for marketing, for great demonstrations of applications that can use unique 64-bit features, and as a development and testing platform to prepare the market.

Gartner does not believe that Win64 will find a significant market presence until 2003.

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.