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Microsoft finally began shipping 64 bit versions of its key operating systems today, opening up the prospect of a truly mass market for 64 bit applications.

Windows XP Professionalx64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition will cost the same as their 32-bit predecessors, the Associated Press reports.

According to CNET the new operating systems won’t be appearing on the shelves any time soon, but will instead hit the market via OEMs, while existing OS owners can get a trade-in.

One sticking point may be driver. While Microsoft is claiming around 16,000 drivers with the new products, it admits some old components will not be covered.

Still, that’s unlikely to trouble AMD, which in 2003 the first to market with an x86 compatible platform with 64 bit support, and Intel which eventually followed suit.

But while both have had their 64 bit compatible products in the market for a while, there was no 64 bit Microsoft OS to run on them. Now, at last, the mass market will finally get to see how great 64 bit solitaire really is.

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