Longhorn Rollout Slips

Push-back of Windows update raises upgrade concerns for some users.

Microsoft Corp. has once again shifted the schedule for the release of "Longhorn," the companys next major version of Windows, leaving some users up in the air about an upgrade path.

Microsoft executives from Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates on down have long described Longhorn as the Redmond, Wash., companys most revolutionary operating system to date. The product was originally expected to ship next year. Then in May of this year, officials pushed back the release date to 2005. But now executives are declining to say when they expect the software to ship.

"We do not yet know the time frame for Longhorn, but it will involve a lot of innovative and exciting work," said Gates at a company financial analyst meeting this summer. Since then, other Microsoft officials have neither retracted nor clarified Gates statement.

They have said that the next step for Longhorn will be at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles next month, where Longhorn developer preview CDs will be handed out. That will be followed by a broad first beta next year, said Jim Allchin, group vice president of Microsofts Windows Platform Group, at the same summer event attended by Gates.

Some Microsoft partners and customers said that they would welcome Longhorn delays and that there needs to be more time between major releases to allow Microsoft proper engineering time.

For example, the two newest features due in Longhorn—the Windows File System and the new compositing system—both need a lot of engineering and testing time, observers said.

A partner with a Midwest company who works closely on Windows and who requested anonymity said he wants to see more distributed computing features, which is a logical path for Microsofts .Net initiative to take.

"When Im writing code at home or rendering something, why does it have to happen on my home machine? Why cant it seamlessly run those tasks on the dozen or so machines I have access to that are just sitting there?" he asked.

Next page: Legal reasons behind Longhorn delay?