More Twists and Turns on the Road to Longhorn

According to reports, Microsoft's proposed 'Shorthorn' release is officially off the table. But sources say a new 'Windows XP Premium' bundle is in the works that aims to combat the success of Apple's iTunes.

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Microsoft officials have said they are ready to cut some "minor" Longhorn Windows features to get the already late operating-system release out the door by 2006, but has been steadfast in its refusal to offer specifics.

However, public and private sources are beginning to share details of how the tortuous Windows roadmap is being re-jiggered.

Microsoft officials admitted last week that the company is highly unlikely to deliver a first beta version of Longhorn this year, as the company had promised last fall. Instead, Microsoft is expected to drop a new alpha release of Longhorn at its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) next month in Seattle. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates also acknowledged publicly last week that Longhorn client wont hit before 2006.

Last month, Microsoft officials said that they were contemplating a number of possible ways to deliver new Windows features and functionality to users under Microsofts so-called Windows Reloaded marketing campaign. One of the options under consideration was an interim release of Windows that would hit between Windows XP Service Pack 2, which is due this June, and Longhorn client. But officials insisted none of the plans was set in stone.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead more here about Windows XP Reloaded.

Microsoft executives have been reticent to say more on its Windows client plans beyond that. But BusinessWeek has examined some alleged internal Microsoft e-mails and video clips pertaining to Longhorns future.

One alleged e-mail from a senior Microsoft Windows executive, dated March 4, claims the company has decided to curtail its Windows file-storage system (WinFS) plans by allowing the file system to work on individual PCs with Longhorn client, but holding off on allowing WinFS to work over a corporate network until a later Windows release.

WinFS, along with the Indigo communications subsystem and the Avalon presentation subsystem, are the key pillars of Longhorn. WinFS is built on top of Microsofts 15-year-old Windows file system, called NTFS. WinFS is an integrated store for file data, relational data and XML data that Microsoft has promised will allow users to do advanced searching for local, intranet and Internet information.

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read more about WinFS and other Longhorn technologies, click here. for a First Look by eWEEK Labs.

Microsoft officials said last year that the company plans to make Indigo available on older versions of Windows (specifically on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003) before Longhorn ships. But top brass would not comment on whether Microsoft plans to do the same with WinFS and Avalon.

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read the full Microsoft Watch story, click here.