Ballmer Talks Open Source, Shows 64-Bit at WinHEC

In a keynote speech at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference ’99 (WinHEC) in Los Angeles, Microsoft Corp.’s president Steve Ballmer revealed two items of keen interest.

In a keynote speech at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference ’99 (WinHEC) in Los Angeles, Microsoft Corp.’s president Steve Ballmer revealed two items of keen interest. First, he said the company is considering the possibility of opening parts of the source code to Windows. Also during his keynote address, Ballmer demonstrated a 64-bit version of Windows 2000.

According to reports, since Ballmer’s speech, Windows 2000 vice president Brian Valentine confirmed that Microsoft has made efforts to understand the open source code movement.

"We're trying to really understand and decide what to do about this notion of open source," Ballmer said. "We're really studying and talking to customers about their reaction to this source code availability."

Ballmer also said that CIOs are skeptical about giving their employees access to source, and some hardware OEM’s are reluctant to add software engineering costs to the overhead of creating their systems.

The Open Source Community ( issued a statement shortly after Ballmer’s keynote welcoming Microsoft to join its effort in open source software, but cautioned that a half-hearted effort would be worthless.

IBM Corp.’s Jon Prial, director of integrated solutions and Linux marketing, agrees that open source could benefit Microsoft and its user community. "We think open source does a lot to promote open industry standards," he says. "The keys are to get an acceptance of the technology, build a community around it and, in turn, support that community."

But the hope for open source may have been short lived. Later in the week, according to a published report, Microsoft's group manager for Windows 2000, Ed Muth, said that opening the source code is not likely because Microsoft's success is largely due to controlling the source code. By maintaining control, Microsoft has avoided the market fragmentation that exists in the Unix market.

In addition to contemplating open source, Microsoft’s president demonstrated a 64-bit version of Windows running on an emulator for Intel Corp.’s pending Merced chip and an Alpha-based server. With SQL Server 7.0, program manager Richard Waymire searched 800,000 rows from about 6.5 gigabytes of memory with Windows NT 4.0, which took 10 minutes. Then he performed the same search with Windows 2000 on the Merced emulator in about 30 seconds.

"With 32-bit NT you could get 4 gigabytes of memory. With 64-bit Windows 2000, 8 terabytes of memory," Waymire said.

As for projections on when the 64-bit version of Windows 2000 will ship, Ballmer said it will be released as soon as possible after the initial shipment of Windows 2000.

"We have a single source code base for Windows 2000 between the 32-bit version and the 64-bit version. When we ship Windows 2000, we'll also ship an intermediate form factor that supports 36 bits of addressability on today's Intel chips," he said.

The current maximum memory that systems can address is 4 gigabytes. With the full 64-bit version of Windows running on the IA-64 architecture, up to 8 terabytes of virtual addressing will be possible.

Ballmer claimed this would enable Windows 2000 to scale up to meet the needs of large enterprises or companies doing business on the Internet that want to keep the logic and processing central.

Contrary to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates’ keynote at WinHEC last year, and several announcements since, the company will be releasing another version of Windows 9x, that will not be based on the Windows NT kernel. Following in the footsteps of its Windows 9x predecessors, this new version will be built primarily for consumers, but also will be available to corporate users.

Ballmer also demonstrated a new server appliance based on the Windows NT embedded operating system. The appliance server was jointly developed with Intel and is expected to be released in the second half of this year.

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