Longhorn Wave Rolling In

Microsoft's Ballmer tells a Gartner crowd that various parts of Longhorn are on their way.

ORLANDO, Fla.—"The Longhorn wave" is on its way, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer assured a crowd of IT executives Wednesday.

Ballmer, who was interviewed by Gartner Inc. Senior Vice President Tom Bittmann and Group Vice President Daryl Plummer on a number of subjects at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here, said the mass of technologies at Microsoft is so large that the company had no choice but to delay its next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn.

That said, he told the capacity crowd that various parts of Longhorn, "the Longhorn wave," were on their way. For example, "WinFS is making good process, but not good enough for 06 delivery," he said.

These developments, however, will mostly be of interest to ISVs. "Theres a lot in [the Longhorn wave] for software developers," he said.

Still, Ballmer expects to see "64-bit Windows making a great deal of progress in the next 12 months in servers and high-end workstations. By the time Longhorn arrives in 06, 64-bit computing will be big."

However, he said, "It will be driven as much by what [Advanced Micro Devices Inc.] and Intel [Corp.] do with their pricing and availability" as anything from Microsoft. If Intel and AMD can deliver the chips at todays 32-bit prices, "64 bits will be the default choice; who doesnt want it?" Ballmer asked.

The Microsoft question that was on the minds of many of the shows attendees was what Microsoft will do about security. Specifically, what can they expect between now and Longhorn?

"Weve learned more about security than anyone else in the world," Ballmer said. "We need to focus in on a few things. We need to engineer in fewer vulnerabilities going forward. We have new development tools to spot security vulnerabilities. We will release those to users. These tools have made a difference in [Windows] Server 2003 and XP SP2."

Looking ahead, Ballmer said that better security for servers will be provided by the first service release for Windows Server 2003. He also pointed at Microsofts new monthly patch release program. In addition, he said, "[There] wont be another client OS, maybe an SP, between now and Longhorn."

Besides just protecting the operating system itself, Ballmer said Microsoft is working to help existing networks. As an example, he cited how Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft are working together to help protect VPNs (virtual private networks).by making Microsofts NAP (Network Access Protection) and Ciscos NAC (Network Admission Control) standards compatible and, later, interoperable.

Thats all well and good, but, Bittmann observed, "We thought Bill [Gates] had taken leave of [his] senses when he said security would be a non-issue in two years."

Ballmer replied, "We are striving to do it. People," he said with a smile, "can have varying points of view on whether we can do it. We think we can make a boatload of progress in the next two years."

And if Microsoft cant do it? "Well keep it a Top 3 priority until its no longer a priority," Ballmer said.

Plummer then asked if "Bill has taken leaves of his senses then?"

No, Ballmer replied, "some people would say its a management style."

Next page: On to Linux.