Microsoft unveiled an alpha version of Windows 2000 for Intel's 64bit processor IA64 at its developers show yesterday and provided more details of the next two releases of the operating system.
Speaking at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Florida, chairman Bill Gates told delegates that moving from a 32bit to 64bit development environment would be "much easier" than the previous move from 16bit to 32bit. He said there is a new instruction set that Intel and partners have "poured billions of dollars into".
However, analysts have warned that it would be well into 2001 before a stable release of the 64bit operating system reaches customers, as previously reported by vnunet.com.
Microsoft, which hopes to push Windows 2000 further into the enterprise with 64bit computing, is expected to deliver two versions of 64bit Windows: one for servers and one for workstations.
Separately, the next two releases of Windows being developed are Whistler, which is due out in the second half of next year, and Blackcomb, which is expected a year later. Gates said the releases will feature .Net, Microsoft's web services environment, built into the user interfaces.
The software giant's Internet Explorer browser will also be more fully integrated into the operating systems, said Gates. Whistler would also allow users to save files to an online 'Microsoft community site' and allow users to create a single web identity, while Blackcomb will include a so-called system information agent that allows users to set notification and customisation rules.
Analysts praised Microsoft for revealing so much of its future plans at the show. Rob Enderle, an analyst at researcher Giga Information Group, said: "This is the first time Microsoft has said so much about the entire company line.
"It is important for Microsoft to convince the developers to keep developing for not only the Windows 2000 platform but for future platforms as well."
However, Enderle warned that releasing too much information too soon could prove harmful if handled incorrectly. "The developer feedback has been met with a certain amount of confusion. It's not glowing, but it hasn't been bad either, just confused."
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