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Analyst Pegs Longhorn Release at 2006

A market analyst is warning customers not to expect Windows "Longhorn," the code-name for the successor to Windows XP, until 2006. That date is a year later than Microsoft's most recent statements on when customers could expect the operating system to ship.

"Given that Microsoft is delivering not just one but many Longhorn products, we don't expect this next version of Windows to be generally available until 2006," Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox said in a statement released Wednesday. "Microsoft will also want to give software developers and end-users time to prepare for the new file system."

At first, Longhorn was supposed to ship in 2004. Last September, Microsoft officials changed the target to 2005 and have been fairly consistently on that timeframe since. Wilcox' bet, however, is far from risky, given the aggressive changes planned for Longhorn, the internal disagreement at Microsoft about what features and products should be included in the Longhorn update and Microsoft's longstanding tendency to slip product delivery dates.

The Longhorn client is currently expected to include a radically overhauled file system; a controversial new security architecture called the Next Generation Secure Computing Base; and extensive interface changes.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been putting out mixed messages for months about whether or not the Longhorn release would include a server as well as a client. The latest official word from Microsoft is that there will be a Longhorn server, but that it will probably lag behind the client release by a year or two.

Additionally, Microsoft has never been particularly forceful about the 2005 delivery date for Longhorn. Jim Allchin, Microsoft group vice president for platforms, said last September about the 2005 date, "We're not going to put something out there just to meet some date."

The Wilcox prediction comes in a Jupiter Research report released last week. Research included in that report also indicates that the consumer and business transition to Longhorn will be "protracted through at least 2009." The Jupiter report doesn't expect the delay to negatively affect PC and client software sales as Windows XP sales are growing slowly but steadily and Microsoft will be releasing second editions of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and Windows XP Media Center Edition in the interim.

About the Author

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