SAN JOSE, Calif. — After years of delays, Microsoft Corp. on Monday released versions of its Windows operating system that can address vastly more memory and are designed for such heavy-duty tasks as rendering graphics and video.
The new products, Windows XP Professional x64 and Windows Server 2003 x64, operate on systems running 64-bit microprocessors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp.
The new operating systems cost the same as their 32-bit counterparts, and are designed to run software written for computers with such processors as well as programs written for older chips.
They’ll produce the biggest performance gains in 64-bit systems with more than 4 gigabytes of memory. Most PCs today ship with 512 megabytes or less of random access memory, or RAM, and 4 GB is the upper limit for 32-bit systems. By comparison, the 64-bit desktop OS will initially support 128 gigabytes of RAM.
Business users are likely to initially be the biggest buyers of the 64-bit Windows operating systems. But ultimately, chip makers and Microsoft believe consumer-oriented programs such as video editors and games will become widely available.
“It’s a very big deal for us,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman, during a speech Monday at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle.
Touting the new software, Microsoft demonstrated programs used by movie studios to render complex computer graphics.
Projects that would have taken a month to render by 32-bit machines are completed in a matter of days with 64-bit systems.
But early adopters could run into trouble as they try to get their peripherals — printers, monitors and the like — to work with the new operating system. That’s because the drivers — software that controls hardware — need to be rewritten to work on 64-bit computers.
Intel, International Business Machines Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. were the first to launch 64-bit chips for high-end servers and workstations.