Microsoft officially launched today the 64-bit client version of Windows XP Professional. The company announced that it would be providing the new 64-bit version as a free upgrade to users of 64-bit processors and the 32-bit XP Pro. (Go here.)

It took Microsoft more than ten years to move its consumer desktop operating system from 32-bit to 64-bit, but today the wait is officially over. With the arrival of the "Windows XP Professional x64 Edition", users are able for the first time to take advantage of their Athlon64-based PCs, if they have not been using one of the numerous pre-releases of the operating system. Bill Gates will introduce the client software as well as the server versions 2003 Enterprise x64 and 2003 Datacenter x64 during his opening keynote today at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC).

The new OS has already been reviewed by CNET, who have a nice article on some initial experiences found when installing, and the overall impression with some gradings.

PC World also had something to say about the new OS, even if it was just to mention that it "looks exactly like its predecessors and could easily pass for the 32-bit version of XP Professional." The article does have some things to mention about software compatibility in addition, though.

As with the release candidate versions, application compatibility is a mixed bag with the shipping version of XP x64 Edition. There are some improvements, however. Microsoft has done away with the Windows Media 9 Series-related errors that previously dogged some application installs--most notably that of Adobe PhotoShop Elements 3.0--and Microsoft Office 2003 SP1 now installs without any complaints, a welcome change.

Symantec has also announced that it will release Symantec AntiVirus Corporate Edition 10.0, which will fully support this new 64-bit version of Windows.