Microsoft updates plans for 64-bit computing

Microsoft Corp. fleshed out its roadmap for transitioning customers to 64-bit computing and unveiled updates to several of its management and server products at its IT Forum 2005 conference in Barcelona this month.

The server version of Microsoft’s Longhorn operating system will come in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, but Release 2 of Longhorn, scheduled for 2009, will be 64-bit only, Bob Muglia, senior vice-president of Microsoft’s Servers and Tools Business, said in a speech here.

Another product currently dubbed “Centro”, a set of server software aimed at mid-size businesses, will also be available in only a 64-bit version when it comes out around 2007. The Longhorn version of Small Business Server will also be 64-bit only, Muglia said.

Microsoft is working with the industry to transition to 64-bit computing, Muglia said. “We are on the verge of a major platform transition in the server marketplace,” he said.

Muglia and Jeff Raikes, president of the company’s Business Division, tag teamed a 90-minute presentation at the conference, expanding on the company’s stated goals to reduce the cost and complexity of IT systems.

Raikes previewed Office 12, the code-name for the company’s next major release of its productivity suite. The first beta of Office 12 will be released shortly, Raikes said, followed by a larger beta release in the second quarter of 2006. The official launch is scheduled for next Fall, which typically means around October.

“Consistency and delivery — that’s really the theme of what we are talking about today at IT Forum — focusing on providing you with a long-term view of where the industry is going, things like 64-bit at the same time delivering, on the commitments that we have,” Muglia said.

Muglia’s speech heralded two products, both of which are interim upgrades: Windows Server 2003 R2 and Virtual Server 2005 R2. Virtual Server 2005 R2 has gone to manufacturing and will be released in December. Windows Server 2003 R2 will be released to manufacturing before the end of the year and available early next year.

In August, Microsoft renamed Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1 to Virtual Server 2005 R2.

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