In anticipation of a shift to 64-bit computing on both desktops and servers, Microsoft has called on manufacturers to speed up the development of software drivers.
At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates predicted that by "the end of 2005 almost 100 per cent of AMD chips and very much of what Intel ships" will be capable of addressing 64-bit instructions.
"This transition will be much smoother than previously," Gates noted, referring to the historically painful transitions between chip architectures.
A 64-bit version of Windows XP is scheduled for release by the end of this year.
Around the same time, a service pack for Windows Server 2003 will add support for processors using 64-bit extensions to Microsoft's server operating system.
The company also used its annual conference for hardware developers to launch its Webservices for Devices.
The technology will initially be used to connect printers through a wireless or wired network, but might be expanded into different areas like home entertainment.
The Webservices profile will allow users to more easily connect to a networked printer.
But it also lets the device transmit information back to the user such as printing colours, the number of paper trays and whether a print job is finished or still in the queue.
To facilitate easier set-up for wireless networks, Microsoft also unveiled the Windows Smart Network Key.
This will allow a user to set up a wireless network simply by plugging a USB flash memory key into a PC, wireless access point and other devices that are needed to connect to a Wi-Fi network.
"So far, Wi-Fi has been a technology for the technologically advanced users," explained Scott Manchester, lead programme manager for home networking at Microsoft.
"This is how we are going to get the rest of the world to start using wireless networking."
To support the Smart Network Key manufacturers need to provide a USB slot, obtain a licence from Microsoft and build in software support for the technology.
The Smart Network Key will be part of the upcoming Service Pack 2 for Windows XP scheduled for release in July.
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