Microsoft Drops XP for Itanium 2 Workstations

Microsoft Corp. has pulled the plug on a version of Windows XP for workstations running Intel Corp.'s Itanium 2 processor. The move follows the decisions by major hardware suppliers to stop building workstations based on the 64-bit chip.

Microsoft plans to focus on development of a version of XP for workstations based on 32-bit processors with 64-bit extensions. Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, which has already faced several delays, is due to ship by midyear. Microsoft will continue to build versions of Windows for high-end Itanium-based servers, a spokeswoman said.

In this case, Microsoft defines workstations as high-performance desktop computers often used by designers and engineers and in video production environments. Unlike Itanium, processors with 64-bit extensions are x86-based and can run applications written for both 32- and 64-bit processors.

Intel officials expressed support for Microsoft's decision to halt development of the Windows version, which was officially called Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Version 2003. "We're aware of Microsoft's plans and agree with their priorities and direction," said Erica Fields, an Intel spokeswoman. "The workstation market really has never been a main focus for the Itanium."

Hewlett-Packard Co. was the last major vendor to offer Itanium-based workstations; it halted sales in September, citing market conditions. Dell Inc. had already pulled its Itanium workstations off the market.

Since nobody was selling the workstation hardware, Microsoft's decision to retire Windows XP for Itanium is no great surprise, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at research firm Insight 64 in Saratoga, Calif. "It has been increasingly obvious over the last year that Itanium is moving more and more into the mid- to high-end server space and away from low-end servers and desktops."

Evers reports for the IDG News Service.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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