Originally due for release in 2004, Longhorn is unlikely to appear until 2005. This delay will mean that users with an Enterprise Agreement or those who have signed up to Microsoft's Software Assurance programme could suffer financially.
The main benefit of the Software Assurance programme is that users get free upgrades to the latest software. However, this would only be cost-effective if a business upgraded its software every two to three years. If the time span was longer, it would be more cost-effective to buy the software outright.
With the prospect of delays in the release of Longhorn, Kurt Schlegel, an analyst with Meta Group, said, "Organisations that purchased a three-year software subscription in Q4 2001 may see their upgrade rights expire before the new Windows release is delivered."
Schlegel warned that there was no guarantee that Microsoft would release a new version of its software during the Software Assurance enrolment timespan.
Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft's security initiative, could delay Longhorn even further, said Schlegel.
"Microsoft's increased focus on rigorous beta testing, especially for security concerns, can only exacerbate the situation," he wrote in a briefing paper.
Microsoft is expected to unveil details about Longhorn at the company's annual professional developer's conference at the end of October.
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