The lowdown on OS

What's new? Operating systems are more enterprise-minded. Built-in file encryption, security features, IP networking and system administration are standard in server OSes, and desktop systems are beginning to follow suit.

What's next? Vendors are moving toward 64-bit OSes, though they are still primarily for specialized uses, such as scientific and other graphics-intensive apps and large databases. Apple says its next major version of the Mac OS, set for next year, will be fully 64-bit. Meanwhile, Microsoft's next OS, code-named Longhorn, is set to be beta tested next year and released in 2006.

Must know info? In many ways, operating systems are more alike than ever before, but they still have important differences. When shopping, consider cost-of-ownership issues such as support for server consolidation, perform a formal risk analysis that takes into account such critical factors as the ease of migrating existing program code, and, perhaps most important, choose an OS in accordance with the applications you'll be running.

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