Operating systems just aint what they used to be. For a while, Microsoft Corp. released a new version of Windows every two or three years—each creating a ripple effect on how we all used and thought about technology. But now, theres a long wait on. It looks like we wont see even a widespread preview of the next major version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, until the first half of next year; and well be waiting for a shipping version until at least 2006 or 2007. Thats more than five years after Windows XP shipped in October 2001. Meanwhile, questions are swirling about what will be in Longhorn, and even about whether any new version of Windows can really change the way we use computers.
The very success of Windows—its now on over 90 percent of desktop PCs—has created a technology monoculture that is both resistant to change and a target for malicious hackers. One reason for Longhorns delay is that all of the recent threats against Windows made Microsoft realize that customers needed more immediate help. As a result, Microsoft focused more on adding new security features to Windows XP Service Pack 2 and getting it out the door (which should happen very shortly).
"We actually had to reallocate resources and programmers who were on the Longhorn team to work on SP2," says Greg Sullivan, a lead Windows product manager.
Microsoft was making these moves at the same time criticism was raining down on it for the role Windows has played in permitting the propagation of viruses and other computing threats. (For more on this subject, see "Is Microsoft to Blame?" in PC Magazines Aug. 3 issue.)
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