As I noted in my Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Preview, Microsoft has been working on a version of XP for x64 hardware for almost two years now. Much has changed since Microsoft tentatively announced support for the fledgling computer platform in April 2003. First, the x64 platform has shown enormous street creds, with Intel essentially copying AMD’s original design, thus assuring that x64, and not Itanium, would be the mainstream 64-bit computing platform of the future. Second, Microsoft has elevated XP x64, its desktop-oriented x64 operating system, from being a niche player to being the basis for its next mainstream OS platform.
Early versions of XP x64 weren’t pretty and lacked significant functionality. But more recent releases, like the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) build the company issued last fall and the RC2 version that shipped earlier this month, show a maturity and attention to detail that was previously missing. XP x64 is still a subset, of sorts, of XP 32-bit, but the missing features in XP x64 were dropped with good reason.
For example, XP x64 includes no 16-bit subsystem, so legacy MS-DOS and 16-bit Windows applications will not run on this system. Compatibility purists may look at that omission as a problem, but I agree with Microsoft’s assessment that dropping 16-bit support is a chance to rid the system of messy legacy deadwood.
Also missing are legacy networking protocols such as NetBEUI and AppleTalk. Again, the chance to clean house, so to speak, should be applauded not condemned, even if it temporarily limits the size of the potential audience for this release. These are unnecessary technologies today, and Microsoft, understandably, doesn’t want to support them forever.
In short, XP x64 looks and acts like the 32-bit version of XP Pro with Service Pack 2 (SP2). Virtually everything you see in a default XP Pro system is present in XP x64, including the Security Center, with just a few exceptions. There are also occasional features in XP x64 that aren’t present in XP SP2, such as a 64-bit version of Internet Explorer. On the other hand, XP x64 also includes a 32-bit version of IE 6 for compatibility reasons: All the browser add-ons IE users take for granted will not work in IE x64. And as I’ll discuss momentarily, compatibility issues are, in fact, almost the only major differentiator between XP x64 and XP Pro 32-bit.
In this preview of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, I’ll focus on the Release Candidate 2 (RC2) build of this product and highlight what I feel will be the most important adoption blockers for this OS release. In my eventual review of the product, I’ll provide a more traditional step-by-step overview of its many features and compare it more closely with 32-bit XP versions.
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Great preview and I like how Paul correlates the past with the future, its an interesting read that details the efforts of how much Microsoft is trying to make this a smooth transition for x86 Windows users to move to x64.