Microsoft releases public Windows XP beta for Athlon 64

Microsoft Corp. has made a beta version of Windows XP available to the public that runs on desktops or workstations using Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Athlon 64 or Opteron processors, Microsoft said Wednesday.

A beta version of Windows XP for AMD’s chips was made available to Microsoft’s developer network at the launch of the Athlon 64 processor in September. As of Tuesday, any user of a PC or workstation with AMD’s new processors can sign up to receive the beta version at Microsoft’s Web site through the Customer Preview Program.

Potential customers need to pay shipping fees for a CD-ROM version of the beta, but it is available for free if downloaded from Microsoft’s site, the company said.

A full version of Windows XP had been expected in the first half of this year when AMD released the Athlon 64. AMD and Microsoft now expect that software to arrive in the second half of the year.

Current Athlon 64 and Opteron users run 32-bit versions of Windows on PCs with those chips. But they cannot take advantage of the chip’s 64-bit capabilities without a 64-bit operating system and applications tailored for AMD’s 64-bit extensions.

A few 64-bit versions of Linux are available for desktops, but there are not many 64-bit applications available right now. That is expected to change once Microsoft releases the full version of Windows XP.

Server customers outside of Microsoft’s developer network can download a beta version of Windows Server 2003 for Opteron, and a full release of that software is also expected in the second half of this year. Over 5,000 customers have requested the beta version of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft said.

Sources have said that Intel Corp. is preparing a processor that uses 64-bit extensions, but the company has not commented on whether that chip will be compatible with AMD’s technology.

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