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Windows 2003 unlikely to boost 64-bit take-up

Cliff Saran and Karl Cushing
Analysts have cast doubt on Intel's claims that the introduction of Windows 2003 in April this year will boost the take-up of 64-bit Itanium II power servers.

Andy Butler, vice-president at Gartner, said IT directors should ignore the hype and view the launch with "detached interest".

"Itanium is exciting and it will be a long-term success, but it will take another 24 months before the average Windows user can justify a move to 64-bit architecture," said Butler. "Until people start hurting and outgrowing 32-bit they simply don't need it."

A major problem for Intel is that the scale and performance improvements it made to the IA32 architecture will suppress demand for Itanium - especially as early platforms are likely to carry a premium price tag.

Until now, Itanium II technology has only been able to run a limited number of software products. While Itanium versions of Linux and HP-UX have been available, a 64-bit version of Windows 2000 was only available as a limited-edition product from Microsoft.

This is set to change with Windows 2003, and Intel expects many more software products to be available on the 64-bit Windows platform, said Alan Priestly, strategic marketing manager in the enterprise group at Intel.

Priestly said the primary benefit of 64-bit Wintel technology was that it allowed applications to take advantage of 64-bit memory, compared with the 32-bit memory restriction on 32-bit applications. Priestly also said database performance on multiterabyte databases would improve.

Intel plans to support 64-bit and 32-bit architectures for the foreseeable future.

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