What's coming? Windows XP 64-bit


Peter Morley

McAfee, UK
Editor: Helen Martin


This article was prompted by the arrival of Windows XP 64-bit, early in June 2005. after deciding to install the new operating system, as normal, Peter Morley assumed that he would be able to use it in the way in which he was accustomed. How wrong could one be?

I installed Windows XP 64-bit on a recent machine, with a new motherboard (ASUS A8N-SL1 with 64-bit AMD processor), and a new 30 Gb hard disk. Since the system was already running old-fashioned Windows XP, this was achieved merely by changing the HD and proceeding with the installation.

This proved to be the most difficult installation of an operating system I have encountered, and I suspect that many other people would give up and forget it. The OS kept restarting with messages on blue screens, requiring minor changes.

In case you think the operator was the cause of the problem, I wasn't! A search on the Internet demonstrated that the issues I was experiencing had all been experienced by other unfortunates, some of whom had indeed given up trying. The cause of the problems may have been the fact that the machine's motherboard was designed after this operating system. Anyway, after a long battle, it did eventually install.

However, worse was to come. I copied onto the system all the programs and files that I use in my day-to-day work.

I could not process viruses, because four of the five tools I normally use would not run (Q-EDIT, Hiew, Volkov Commander, and DV8). The failure was designed to happen. Each of the programs produced a dialog box suggesting I that contact the supplier, and get an up-to-date version of the tool. I made a few enquiries, and established that support for 16-bit software had been excluded deliberately from Windows XP 64-bit. I call this lack of backward compatibility!

Microsoft™ has obviously been caned. The August 2005 issue of Windows XP Magazine (which arrived in early July) failed to mention XP 64-bit, the newest and latest version of the operating system.

The arrival of Windows Media Centre 64-bit is imminent. I believe this will be very similar to the version I had, but that it probably won't matter, for two reasons:

  1. The operating system will already be installed on arrival.
  2. Most users will not be adding ancient 16-bitsoftware.

What are the consequences of all this?

First, you can expect the following marketing point to be made quite strongly. Internet usage has been exploding for the last four years, and I believe it will continue to do so for the next 10 years. The use of 64-bit technology in both hardware and software will be essential.

No surprise, then, that an Acer advertisement in an early July 2005 edition of the Financial Times made exactly this point. All the advertisements you see pushing Intel Centrino Mobile Technology, may need to be reviewed.

Second, everyone expects a Microsoft anti-virus announcement imminently (Beta before the end of September 2005, and product(s) before the end of the year). You can be certain that Microsoft's AV product will run perfectly well under Windows XP 64-bit. There is an implication here, that all other AV companies will need to scramble around to ensure that none of their products fail to run on the 64-bit operating system. There isn't much time!

One final question occurs to me: will Longhorn fail to support 16-bit programs? All my instincts suggest that Microsoft will include support, but let's wait and see!



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