Microsoft: 64-bit Windows is on track

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday provided a timetable for 64-bit Windows, its next-generation operating system slated to follow Windows 2000.

The company has said since last year that it will deliver its final 64-bit Windows product concurrently with Intel Corp.'s shipment of its IA-64 Merced processor. Company officials reiterated Microsoft's commitment to ship a 64-bit NT release before the end of 2000.

The first beta of 64-bit Windows will hit sometime in the first half of 2000, said Keith White, director of marketing for Windows 2000. The version of 64-bit Windows that Microsoft demonstrated for the first time Tuesday at the Intel Developer Forum running on an actual Merced system (not just a simulator) is a "pre-alpha" release, said White.

While Microsoft is likely to release a workstation and server version of 64-bit Windows by the time the product goes to beta, Microsoft has yet to finalise its packaging, White added.

Microsoft has been developing its 64-bit Windows product in parallel with Windows 2000 for the past couple of years. NT chief architect David Cutler is heading the 64-bit Windows project. Microsoft's 64-bit Windows will not supersede Windows 2000, company officials have said; instead, the two operating systems will be updated in lockstep for at least 10 years.

While Windows 2000 includes some 64-bit datatypes, meant to enable developers to write applications that will be based on a single "source deck," Microsoft will not bill Windows 2000 as anything but a 32-bit operating system. Microsoft will position even the high-end Datacenter version of Windows 2000, which is expected to ship 90 to 120 days after the other Windows 2000 SKUs and which will support very-large-scale memory, as a pure 32-bit OS.

Over the past few months, Microsoft has made available to developers software and driver development kits that have enabled those who want an early start on 64-bit Windows to have some tools with which to work. Since last summer, Microsoft has had a working version of its C++ 64-bit compiler, but has held off from marketing it, since the Merced silicon has not been available until now. Microsoft officials did not comment by press time on when the company will ship its 64-bit compiler.