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The announcement was made at technology research firm Gartner Group's annual Windows conference. Gartner analysts, including John Enck, research director of server strategy, said they expected Microsoft to release the product at the end of 2001, in line with the software maker's earlier predictions.
Gartner analyst Tom Bittman, who followed the announcement with a session on Microsoft's future plans for all its core business segments from the Xbox gaming console to Windows circa 2006, called Windows 2002 a "minor release".
Windows 2002, the software that Microsoft will offer to business customers to run large servers and datacentres, shared the same code name as Windows XP, the operating system that Microsoft is developing for desktop computers. Both were previously known as Whistler.
Much of the buzz at Gartner's conference focused on what Windows 2002 will mean for corporate customers, but the research group predicted that by the end of 2002, more than 40% of the operating systems running on the Windows NT kernel -- which is the same code base used in Windows XP -- will be aimed at consumers.
Windows XP, which formally earned its name (shorthand for "experience") in February, is also slated for a late-2001 release. Media reports that the company would be late on the release surfaced yesterday after a Giga Information Group analyst was quoted as being sceptical about a 2001 release.
Bittman said Gartner was sticking to its estimate of an end-of-the-year release. "We don't think they're slipping," he said.
He added that while the packaged, retail version of Windows XP could face delays, Microsoft is committed to shipping the software to manufacturers to be pre-installed on PCs in time for the holiday shopping season.
"If it does slip into the first quarter 2002, that would be dramatically bad," he said. "But it won't."
Microsoft will try to time the release of Windows 2002 with new servers running Intel's forthcoming 64-bit processor, Itanium.
"If Microsoft plays it smart they will be right there when Intel is ready with its Itanium," Bittman said.
Gartner's annual Microsoft conference, this year titled "Windows and Beyond: Riding the Microsoft Roller Coaster," began yesterday with presentations about life beyond Microsoft Windows as it is currently known, including the much-anticipated .Net initiative, which aims to provide a framework for delivering services over the Internet to multiple devices.
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