Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Microsoft said Tuesday that it has delayed an update to its Windows Server software as well as the first version of Windows to support 64-bit x86 chips such as Advanced Micro Device's Athlon 64.
The software maker said Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit Extended Systems and Windows XP 64-bit Edition for 64-bit Extended Systems will all be pushed back until the first half of next year. All three products, which are being developed together, were slated to ship by the end of this year.
The move is a blow to AMD, which has had its 64-bit desktop and server chips on the market for some time and has been waiting for a version of Windows that can take advantage of their capabilities. Intel has also said it will have chips that support the 64-bit extensions to the existing Pentium architecture, known as x86. There is already a version of Windows that supports Intel's 64-bit Itanium architecture, which uses an entirely separate instruction set than x86 chips.
"As is the case with all Microsoft product schedules, the development cycle is driven by quality with a focus on the needs of our customers, rather than an arbitrary date," Microsoft said in a statement.
analyst Nathan Brookwood said that although AMD would benefit from the software's release, the delay should not significantly hurt the ability of AMD's Opteron chip to compete against Intel's Xeon.
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"They run very well in 32-bit mode. They are very competitive with Intel's Xeon in 32-bit mode," said. The delay could inadvertently give Linux a leg up, Brookwood added, noting that 64-bit versions of that operating system are available that support both IBM's DB2 and Oracle's database software. "People who are motivated by database (performance) may find those environments preferable."
Similarly on the desktop, Brookwood said the delay could push some of those that need the performance gain of 64-bit computing over to Linux. "Again, a lot of the early workstation applications are in technical markets, CAD (computer-aided design) and the like. There Linux, again, is gaining some popularity."
Microsoft's announcement marks the latest in a series of delays for the 64-bit version of Windows XP.
AMD in September 2003, at which time Microsoft had to release, by the first half of this year, a version of Windows that would support the chips.
Microsoft has also had to push back other versions of Windows. The long-awaited security update to Windows XP—Service Pack 2—has taken longer than expected and is now set to ship in August. Microsoft has also said the next major release of Windows, code-named Longhorn, won't ship until 2006.