Microsoft Updates Product Roadmap at PDC

Microsoft refined its roadmap for future versions of Windows, SQL Server and Visual Studio this week at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.


The most hotly anticipated product timetable announcement from the conference was the status of "Longhorn," the follow-up client operating system to Windows XP. Whether Longhorn will ship in 2005 or 2006 has flared up as a big focus of industry debate in recent weeks.

Microsoft group vice president for platforms Jim Allchin wouldn't comment on a target general availability date during his keynote. Instead he confined himself to nailing down the target for the first official beta of Longhorn as the second half of 2004.

During the opening keynote, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates also left the Longhorn ship date question open. Gates merely said Longhorn would support the hardware advances he expected PCs to undergo in "less than three years." The statement leaves Microsoft with room to deliver Longhorn in 2005, but certainly tilts toward 2006.

Microsoft currently plans to deliver a Longhorn server as well as a Longhorn client. Allchin said the beta timetable he discussed does not apply to the server version. While the server version will include many of the same technologies, Microsoft is not ready to talk about a timetable for an early beta of the Longhorn server.

Windows XP Service Pack 2

Another timetable under intense industry scrutiny is the delivery date for the second service pack for Windows XP. Microsoft eased pressure slightly to deliver an SP2 on Oct. 15 by pushing out Update Rollup 1 for Windows XP, a collection of critical fixes in the year since Windows XP SP1 came out. Microsoft has bigger plans for Windows XP SP2 than bug fixes. In a recent speech, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called Windows XP SP2 a "new version of Windows … a service pack on steroids." Among other things, SP2 will include security configuration changes and new security features.

Gates said on Monday that Windows XP SP2 will enter beta testing later this year. Allchin said the final version will be available in the first half of 2004. Both statements are consistent with Ballmer's timetable earlier this month. Gates also said the first service pack for Windows Server 2003, which also will make security-related changes to the operating system, will enter beta testing in the first half of next year.

Other Versions of Windows

Allchin updated the timetables for a few other branches in the Windows family tree. A second version of the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition will be released in the first half of 2004. A 64-bit version for AMD's 64-bit processors that use the x86 instruction set will be available in the summer of 2004.

SQL Server and Visual Studio

While the PDC is mostly about Longhorn, the company is also using the conference to get attention for two products that are closer to being released.

Yukon is the successor to SQL Server 2000, an aging product that has been out since late 2000. Gordon Mangione, corporate vice president for SQL Server, said the public beta of Yukon will be available in the first half of next year. General availability is targeted for the second half of the year, Mangione said. Although SQL Server "Yukon" has been repeatedly delayed from a one-time delivery target of 2003, the product's public delivery date hasn't changed since Microsoft adjusted it in early June. About 2,000 customers are currently testing pre-beta versions of Yukon, Mangione said.

The next version of Visual Studio, code-named "Whidbey," will also enter widespread beta testing over MSDN next year, Microsoft officials said.

About the Author

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