Spare Us From All Windows Interim Releases

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2004-02-26

Spare Us From All Windows Interim Releases

You heard it here first: Windows Longhorn, the follow-on to Windows XP, wont be on store shelves until 2008—some three years later than the 2005 date Microsoft announced last May. While even the most pessimistic of developer sources now predicts a 2007 launch, I will put my stake in for yet another year.

This is just a guess, but Ive been right before. I was the first to predict that Windows 2000 wouldnt be out in 1998—back when it was code-named Whistler.

And that delay must spell big trouble for the software vendor. Windows XP customers are mostly happy—and the security-oriented Service Pack (SP2) due later this year will most likely be a free upgrade.

However, the vast legions of Windows 98 customers show little evidence of budging off their venerable, but workable platform. About 20 percent of Windows desktops worldwide run 98, or the even older Windows 95.

You and I suffer more from these older desktops than their actual users do—Microsoft has cut back on security patches for its older operating systems, which leaves these systems more open to hacks, worms and zombie attacks.

But today, staring down the barrel of four more years without a meaningful Windows upgrade, Microsoft blinked. Or is in the process of blinking.

Microsoft revealed on Thursday that it is deciding on whether it might be better to release an interim version of Windows with a host of new features, capabilities, and (unlike SP2), a price tag. This interim release, whatever its form, is dubbed XP Reloaded.

Microsoft, it appears, wants to prime its Windows revenue pump between now and Longhorn.

Next Page: Windows XP Reloaded: Bad Idea

Windows XP Reloaded

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This is a bad idea for a number of reasons—but the biggest one has two letters: ME. Remember Windows ME? I sincerely hope that if you do, its just a fading nightmare.

Unfortunately way too many users are still stuck with Microsofts worst version of Windows ever—even worse than Windows 1.0 (which I still have on floppy, somewhere in the basement).

Windows ME was designed to provide a bridge between the aging look of Windows 98—basically Windows 95 on steroids—and the spiffy new Windows XP. Windows ME shipped in September of 2000, and was the last to use the older 9x kernel. It included a bulked up interface, similar to the NT-based Windows 2000, and closer to the graphical goal of Windows XP—which didnt ship for another 13 months.

Yet, this Millennium Edition version of Windows was a colossal failure. Neither fish nor fowl, stuck between the past and the future, it frequently broke down, caused uncounted application barfs, and spawned a zillion customer support calls.

We might hope that Microsoft would have learned its lesson, and not rush an interim OS to market again. But you would be wrong.

XP Reloaded—whatever its feature set—has all the characteristics of a money-hungry grab for upgrade revenue, as a way to squeeze even more dollars out of users happy with their status quo.

Why rush a new OS to market? Why not just continue to improve security, stability and capability of the existing operating systems? Because Microsoft cant make money on that.

So what will we see in Shorthorn (as many are calling it), or MidHorn (my nickname, because it wont be out shortly)?

Not the new WinFS file system, which is built on SQL Server. Not the dreamy new interface thatll leave Mac users drooling—although we might see the "sidebar."

Still, look for Media Center type capabilities to be built in, along with support for Intels new 64-bit hybrid CPUs, the Longhorn Audio Architecture, and perhaps the Indigo communications architecture.

For more details on whats close to ready in Longhorn today, check out ExtremeTechs recent hands-on preview of the latest Longhorn Alpha.

At any rate, this new interim release is a bad idea. Like ME, it probably wont work all that well, it wont feature an integrated set of new features, and itll probably be rushed to market.

Do we really need another Windows ME? Not for me.

So if we do get a "MidHorn", follow my lead. Remember ME, and dont forget SP2. And if youre looking for a good way to brighten up your Windows interface, consider Window Blinds from Stardock. You can make your PC look like Longhorn today—without any "Reloading".

Check out eWEEK.coms Windows Center at for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

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