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Microsoft Christens 64-bit Windows, Charts Course For Longhorn

SEATTLE -- Microsoft on Monday steered into its third decade of computing, launching 64-bit Windows XP operating systems and providing a glimpse at the next major revision of Windows, code-named Longhorn.

The setting was the opening of the 14th annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, an industry gathering for component and system manufacturers, core logic, consumer electronics and application vendors. In outlining Microsoft's server and client operating system roadmap, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates not only gave direction to the hardware OEMs but also positioned the vendor against future competitive battles with the likes of Google, Linux and Adobe.

In his keynote address, Gates noted that Windows is about 20 years old, and that DOS and 16-bit computing dominated the first decade, followed by Windows 95 with 32-bit computing. The introduction of 64-bit and multi-core computing will create new inflection points and is the start of the third decade, he said.

"This is the decade where we can have the most impact of all," Gates said. "The pervasiveness of digital approaches. The kind of capabilities that we've finally achieved are things that have been talked about for many decades. It's really common sense now for business to be done in a digital way. Entertainment. Scheduling. Purchasing. The foundation work for the 64-bit addressing and the software runtime that allows you to connect not only a browser to any website but you can connect any piece of software to another piece of software to a website across the Internet. Like those new web services standards that are coming into the platform allowing these news applications. So this is the decade of greatest importance. This is the one of greatest competition, and greatest opportunity. That's why you see us putting in greatest levels of R&D into Windows."

Moving to 64-bit will have many benefits, and it will happen more rapidly than any previous transition, Gates said, noting that 32-bit applications will continue to run on 64-bit Windows machines. There will "dramatic improvement" in Windows Terminal Services with 64-bit, he said. The added memory will make a big difference in Active Directory, in technical computing and gaming, and database applications, he said. Nonetheless, "We will go through a period where Microsoft and others will release both 32- and 64- bit versions of their applications."

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