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Wed 31 Mar 2004 04:00 AM

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Longhorn still a while away

Microsoft boss Bill Gates has given more hints that the next generation Windows OS, code-named Longhorn, will not happen before 2006

Microsoft boss Bill Gates has given more hints that the next generation Windows OS, code-named Longhorn, will not happen before 2006. He also seems to be ruling out completely the idea of an interim release for XP, or “XP Reloaded” as press reports have called it, bridging the gap between the two.

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium Gates, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect, said that the company would ship an alpha release of Longhorn this year “that everybody can look at and then as we get through that, we’ll give a precise date.” Later he added that “people are speculating that we’re out in 2006 and that’s probably valid speculation but this is not a date-driven release.”

While Microsoft said at one point that Longhorn would ship in 2005, it has since distanced itself from this claim. At its Middle East Developer’s Conference in Cairo in January this year, Gates said it would be two or more years before Longhorn was released.

While Microsoft last month announced that the release candidate version of the second service pack (SP2) for XP was available for testing, paving the way for SP2’s expected shipment this summer, executives have discussed shipping a more substantially overhauled version of XP to bridge the gap between SP2 and Longhorn.

However, Gates seemed to reject that this week. On being asked if there would be another Windows release before Longhorn, he said only: “Yes, there is a release called SP2. This is a great name, Windows XP SP2.”

“It’s a break though in terms of it turns the firewall on automatically, it blocks certain type of internet downloads and files things. Its an XP update that has to do with security. It’s not about new features or new APIs, new user interface, any of those things. It’s purely security focused,” he added. “And so we will have a strong message that as you’re buying new systems or if you’re looking at updating, that SP2 is the best client version to be using, but the really big breakthrough release, the next one is the Longhorn release.”

Some people have suggested that Microsoft’s current problems with the European Commission will affect the development of Longhorn, as the EC ruling is designed to make it harder to ‘bundle’ new features into Windows. Gates did not address this directly, but did say that “The fact that Windows will get richer, believe me, Windows will get richer. People want more capability in Windows.” There would be “legal issues” as to just how the company would achieve that, he said.

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