Microsoft has made a beta version of Windows XP available to the public which runs on desktops or workstations using Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon 64 or Opteron processors.
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User of PC or workstations with AMD's latest processors can sign up to receive the beta version at Microsoft's website through the customer preview programme. ( www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/64bit/downloads/upgrade.asp)
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.
A full version of Windows XP had been expected in the first half of this year when AMD released the Athlon 64, but is now expected in the second half of the year.
Existing 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. That is expected to change once Microsoft releases the full version of Windows XP.
Server customers outside 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.
More than 5,000 customers have requested the beta version of Windows Server 2003.
Intel is also preparing a processor which uses 64-bit extensions, but the company has not commented on whether that chip will be compatible with AMD's technology.
Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service