SEATTLE – Microsoft Corp. has pushed back the release of the next version of the Windows operating system, code-named Longhorn, until 2004.
In an interview here at its 11th annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, WinHEC, Jim Allchin, the group vice president of platforms at Microsoft, told eWeek that Longhorn was unlikely to ship before 2004.
The news represents yet another shift in the roadmap for the Windows operating system. Initially Microsoft planned to follow XP with the version code-named Blackcomb, but that was pushed back when it was decided to introduce the Longhorn release, which was expected to be a relatively minor, point release that would hit the market sometime in 2003.
But the push back to 2004 comes on the back of delays in the Windows .Net Server family, which will be released to manufacturing late this year and find its way into customer hands in early 2003, as a result of Microsofts Trustworthy Computing initiative. In addition, the company is looking for a longer development cycle for Longhorn so as to allow greater feature innovation, Allchin said.
"I dont think Longhorn is going to ship before 2004, but there are teams already working on technologies for both the client and server," he said. "We want to make it a very significant release, and we are going to have a reasonable development cycle for this version. Often times we try to spin things too fast and spend all our time getting beta feedback and not enough innovation as I would have wanted."
Microsoft is making deep investments into Longhorn and is expected to show a set of new managed APIs at its Professional Developers Conference later this year. These would give developers access to its new graphics architecture, publicly being referred to as the Longhorn Graphics Infrastructure.
While most machines currently ship with 3-D graphics, the Windows interface was basically 2-D. "So, imagine if you had all the capabilities to do 3-D that the shell actually uses as well as make it easier for all applications to do so, not just games but any type of visualization, " Allchin said.
While Microsoft isnt showing any user interface changes at WinHEC, the new graphic technology it demonstrated here give developers an idea of what could be possible going forward, he said.
Microsoft is also expected to unveil a whole realm of APIs at its PDC conference, including on the peer-to-peer front, for which a lot of new applications will be written.
"Well probably try to provide some of the ugly stuff under the covers so developers dont have to worry about building the namespace and finding the other peers on their environment and the Net if you will," he said. "Im very optimistic well have lots of exciting new applications for Windows going forward, and we want to build the plumbing underneath it."
Microsoft is also investing heavily in new storage initiatives for Longhorn and beyond, said Allchin, who has long wanted a richer storage system in Windows.
"I am unrepentant," he said. "I want a storage system where you can issue flexible queries. There are so many things you could do if you had a heterogeneous store that had flexible queries. While everything is subject to change, this is something we are working on."
Allchin confirmed this was the same unified type of storage model discussed for the next version of SQL Server, code-named Yukon, at Microsofts Tech Ed conference in New Orleans last week.
"If you think about Yukon as a code-base that can be used in a lot of different ways, then yes, but it takes more than Yukon to do what Im talking about," he said. "But its an ingredient, absolutely."
Allchin declined to say when the first Longhorn beta would be ready, saying it was far too early in the development process to make such a determination.
But, in the meantime, Microsoft would be delivering "Freestyle," the code-name for technologies that consolidate and present the PCs digital media content in one user interface accessible by remote control, as well releasing its TabletPC in the second half of the year, he said.
Allchin also rejected talk that Microsoft is working towards another release of Windows XP, to be called XP Second Edition. Microsoft has said it will be releasing an XP Service Pack later this year and would be providing components of technology that it "might put together on a CD for OEMs," but this would not be XP SE.
An example of this could be the May release of Bluetooth technology so, "come next year might we package some of those things up together and give them to people, yes, but its not a second edition as weve done this in the past. Were going stright from XP to Longhorn," he said.
Regarding customer concerns that its Trustworthy Computing initiative was concentrating more on security than in legacy application compatibility, which could result in application compatibility issues going forward, Allchin said that he did not feel the process would result in a lot more broken applications.