Microsoft Ponders Windows Upgrade for 04

Microsoft is weighing a plan to add a new milestone to its Windows road map. According to sources, a proposal to deliver a Windows 'Yukon' release is on the company's drawing boards.

Microsoft Corp. is weighing a plan to add a new milestone to its Windows road map.

According to developers close to the Redmond, Wash., company, a proposal to deliver a Windows Yukon release—timed to tide over Microsoft and its users until the long-awaited Longhorn debuts—is on the companys drawing boards.

Microsoft executives have held fast to their promise that Longhorn will be the version of Windows designed to follow Windows XP on the desktop, and Windows .Net Server 2003 on the server. In recent weeks, however, company representatives have taken to calling Longhorn the next "major" version of Windows.

So, will there be a "minor" Windows timed to arrive before Longhorn, a Windows 98 Second Edition?

A company spokeswoman said that there has been no official change to Microsofts Windows road map.

But developers working with the Windows team said they are hearing that Microsoft is giving serious consideration to issuing a minor Windows "Yukon" update by early 2004.

"They are starting to look at having some sort of interim version of Windows for early 2004—basically Windows XP + Service Pack 2," said one coder who requested anonymity.

Another developer with Redmond ties said signs are pointing toward a Windows release that would hit during Microsofts fiscal 2004 (July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004).

"Originally it was supposed to be Longhorn," said the developer, who asked not to be identified. "It will likely be an XP update to ship with the .Net Framework, more managed code used in Windows, and extensive updates to Windows Media technologies. I dont know what theyre going to call it though."

In July at its .Net Strategy Day, Microsoft officially redrew its product road map to focus on three waves: the Now wave (2002); the Yukon wave (2003) and the Longhorn wave (2004+). Microsoft is attempting to sync up a number of its product launches to coincide with these waves.

Microsoft execs said at that time to expect new versions of Windows to debut in the Now timeframe (Windows .Net Server 2003) and the Longhorn timeframe (new client and server releases).

But in recent months, Microsofts top brass have begun slipping various references to Longhorn as a 2005 product into their comments. At Microsofts Stampede reseller conference in mid-September, Microsoft Business Solutions president, Doug Burgum, cited Yukon and Longhorn dates as even later. Burgum pegged the "Yukon" wave as 18 to 24 months from now, putting it well into the 2004 time period. And he referred to the Longhorn as a 2006 wave of technologies.

Given that Windows is one of Microsofts main cash cows, the company would be crazy not to refresh its Windows lineup sooner than 2006, said one IT director at a New York bank, who asked for anonymity. After all, Windows XP has been on the market since the fall of 2001, he noted.

"Given the market, I think Microsoft will try for something else before 2006," he said. "They are only driven by upgrades at present as far as I can see, so they cant wait that long."

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment on dates for any of its future Windows releases, adding that Longhorn was too far in the future to merit a firm release date.

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