Microsoft VP Talks Strategy on Longhorn, Whidbey

Microsoft is looking at delivering "incremental value" as customers await their rollouts, senior vice president Bob Muglia says.

Microsoft Corp. officials have hinted at interim releases of both the Windows server and client before Longhorn, the next major Windows upgrade due to ship in late 2006 or later. Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsofts Windows Server Division, sat down at last weeks Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas to talk with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli about the Redmond, Wash., companys plans.

Microsoft has acknowledged that it is looking at an interim server release before Longhorn ships. Can you tell me what your thinking is around this?

There is a lot were still thinking about. We havent got it all figured out as yet. There is a lot of innovation that we have been developing coincident with the release of Windows Server 2003 that is either in market today or under development for release in, say, 2005.

An example of this is Whidbey, or the 2005 version of the Common Language Runtime. Were looking at different ways to bring that to market effectively, and we dont know exactly how we are going to do that yet. We dont understand exactly the packaging or the implications from a pricing perspective or anything else, but we are looking at how we can get that to market.

Pricing is always such a sensitive issue for customers. There are those who want it all bundled into the core kernel and others who want it layered on top. But both mostly dont want to pay extra for the new features and functionality. What is your view on this?

We want to continue delivering incremental value to our customers, and there are fundamentally three ways we can do this. One is through free updates, once the operating system has shipped. The second is we can build new versions of that new operating system that are free if people are part of the Software Assurance system. The third way we can do this is by building applications.

We always have to look at those things, and I believe we should be driving new innovation to customers on a very regular basis. Frankly, we use all three of those now, and none of them will go away.

Some people who signed up for Software Assurance last year are very concerned that with Longhorn slated for late 2006 or even beyond, their current agreements may not even cover the upgrade to Longhorn. Are you conscious of those concerns?

We take their concerns very seriously. The specifics of what licensing agreements people have signed up for are very individual; our sales force will work with each of our customers on an individual basis. But one of the reasons why we are looking at how we can get technology to market is to try to provide value to our Software Assurance customers. No question. Where Longhorn server fits into that is again an individual thing based on customer agreements with us.

Are you concerned about the Linux and open-source communities view that the longer Longhorn takes to ship, the better for them and Linux adoption?

I think that Linux-based solutions are important competitors to the Windows client and server, and were very focused on making sure that our products provide better value than Linux-based solutions. There are a lot of things we are doing to be very competitive in this marketplace. Some of this is technology that has been brought to market, [and] some of this has to do with being a great partner and providing great marketplace solutions.

Have all of the security issues changed the way you are looking at the security?

Absolutely. When Blaster hit, it made us think really hard about what we had to do. We spent an enormous amount of energy focused on how we can protect clients and servers from this, and that is why we have done all this work on XP Service Pack 2 thats going to be shipping this summer. Windows Update Services was changed and we added features to it, those things that we learned along the way and which will make us more effective in getting these patches out more quickly and deployed in an even fashion.

Microsoft has just rolled out a limited beta for Windows Update Services?

There are really three pieces to this. Theres the Internet cloud which we run, which has Windows Update and Microsoft Update. Then theres the piece thats part of Windows Server. Windows Update Services is a feature of Windows Server, and it runs on servers. Then theres the actual desktops and servers to which the fixes are being applied. Then you also have consumer desktops that dont go through Windows Update Services.

The final piece of this is enterprises running SMS [Systems Management Server]. All of these are being built on a consistent infrastructure. Theyre all being connected up in a consistent way, and by this summer the new versions of Windows Update Services and Microsoft Update will come on line and will begin to feed these fixes to desktops.

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