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Windows "Longhorn" Server Cancelled

Microsoft Corp. abandoned its plans to ship client and server versions of Windows simultaneously in the "Longhorn" release, a company spokeswoman confirmed Monday.

Instead, "Longhorn" will be a client-only release, with the successor to Windows .NET Server 2003 coming later under the code-name "Blackcomb."

Longhorn had been the version of Windows scheduled to come out after Windows XP on the client side and after Windows .NET Server 2003 on the server side. Some Microsoft officials' original comments when the company first injected the Longhorn project into the product roadmap a few years ago suggested it would be an interim release and primarily a client-only operating system. Longhorn grew into a major overhaul of both client and server operating systems. Now, Microsoft is back to the client-only part.

On the server side, it's déjà vu because Microsoft roadmaps dating to 2000 had Blackcomb as the successor to "Whistler," the code-name for products that later became Windows XP and Windows .NET Server 2003. Whistler and Blackcomb are twin mountains at a ski resort in British Columbia.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the decision to skip a Longhorn server resulted from a lack of customer interest in synchronous client and server operating system releases. "Microsoft had been talking with customers about it. To have it be together like that wasn't going to work with their implementation strategies and deployment cycles. It would basically meet customer's needs if it was done this way," with separate client and server releases, the spokeswoman said.

Bearing out the official Microsoft line are the deployment patterns that followed Microsoft's last major simultaneous release -- Windows 2000. The client version enjoyed wide deployments long before the server version did.

In terms of Microsoft's development processes, skipping a Longhorn server also makes sense. Windows .NET Server 2003 will not ship until early 2003, while Windows XP shipped in late 2001. Microsoft's client operating system team will be nearly 18 months ahead of the server team in developing the next generation of Windows.

Additionally, Microsoft put itself under new pressure by pushing customers to Licensing 6.0. The new licensing scheme leads customers to expect new versions of software every three years. Earlier this year, Microsoft acknowledged that its Longhorn timeframe had slipped from 2004 to 2005, putting the upgrade cycle for the client operating system at four years.

Microsoft officials aren't saying yet how the decision to remove the server from "Longhorn" will affect the timetable, but it does make it possible for Microsoft to deliver a new client operating system by late 2004 or earlier.

On the Blackcomb side, Microsoft officials again aren't yet providing a revised timetable. But given Microsoft's inability to ship an interim version of Windows 2000 Server in less than three years, the 2005 date was a very aggressive target for a major overhaul of the server operating system. By decoupling the server from the client, Microsoft gives itself breathing room to ship the Blackcomb successor to Windows .NET Server 2003 in 2006.

Changing the code-name for the server also avoids confusion down the road when the server product gets off track for shipping simultaneously with the client operating system -- as happened with Whistler.

But the decision does introduce some new questions into Microsoft's product roadmap. Microsoft had referred to a Longhorn release of Visual Studio .NET that would ship around the same time as the Longhorn operating system. Now it is unclear whether that version of the developer suite would be matched with the Longhorn client or the Blackcomb server.

Meanwhile, much of the early hype surrounding Longhorn involves a new file system based on work being done in the Yukon release of SQL Server, slated for a 2003 or 2004 release. If Microsoft pushes the "Longhorn" release forward, the company may have difficulty including the new file system.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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