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Microsoft adds new flavors of server OS

The software giant makes available a test version of its Windows Server 2003 operating system that runs on 64-bit Advanced Micro Devices chips.

Microsoft said Wednesday that it has made available a test version of its Windows Server 2003 operating system that runs on 64-bit chips from Advanced Micro Devices.

The software maker said it has started allowing some developers access to a test, or beta, version of Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit extended systems that support the AMD64 architecture. A public beta is planned soon, although release of the final version has been pushed back until the second half of 2004. Microsoft has already announced plans for a 64-bit version of Windows XP that works with AMD's recently announced Athlon 64 processor. That software is also in beta, but the release has been delayed until the second half of next year.

The delay stems from the fact that Microsoft has held back an interim update to Windows Server 2003. That software, originally set for launch early next year, is now slated for release in the second half of 2004. Microsoft announced the delay at last week's partner conference in New Orleans.

"Support for AMD64 technology affords customers value and flexibility by supporting a mix of 32-bit and 64-bit applications on the same machine, further delivering great price and performance," the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker said in a statement.

Sun said last week that it would release a version of its Solaris operating system for AMD's 64-bit chips. SuSE Linux is selling a version of Linux now, and Red Hat plans to begin its Linux support soon.

Among the advantages of the combination of 64-bit chips and an operating system that can take advantage of them is the ability to address a larger amount of memory at one time.

Microsoft said Wednesday that it will release a lower-cost version of its Windows Server 2003 for Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip. That version, which had been available since March in enterprise and data center versions, will now come in a standard version that's suited for systems with four or fewer processors.

CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.