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Windows variants set for 64-bit AMD chips

Microsoft plans to deliver two specialized versions of its operating system software for Advanced Micro Devices' forthcoming Opteron and Athlon 64.

Microsoft plans to deliver two specialized versions of its Windows operating system software for Advanced Micro Devices' forthcoming 64-bit processors.

In March, Microsoft released both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 to PC manufacturers for Intel chips, including the Xeon and Itanium 2. It also released a 64-bit version of Windows XP for Itanium 2 workstations.

Now the company is doing the same for AMD chips.

Microsoft said Wednesday that it will offer a 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003 for AMD's Opteron server chip. The software giant also intends to release a 64-bit variant of Windows XP for the chipmaker's Athlon 64 processor for desktops and notebooks.

Microsoft and AMD have been working together since at least April 2002. The two companies have since demonstrated

But until now, the software maker had not officially named the versions of its operating system that would be adapted for AMD chips. Beta versions of the operating systems will be available at midyear, Microsoft said.

Opteron, the first of the two 64-bit chips to debut from AMD, will launch later this month at an event in New York. The Athlon 64 launch is set for September, AMD has said.

The new chips are designed to offer higher performance than current AMD processors. But their most prominent feature will be 64-bit addressing, a feature that AMD has dubbed x86-64.

The x86-64 technology adds several new instructions to the current x86 processor architecture so that it can address 64 bits of data, significantly more than can 32-bit AMD Athlon and Intel Pentium x86-based chips. That increase will let computers--mainly servers--access a much larger amount of memory at once, improving performance by reducing the need to seek out data on a hard drive.

The x86-64 format allows AMD chips to support both 32- and 64-bit addressing.