Microsoft changes tune on client-only Longhorn

Microsoft went to great pains in November to get the word out that its Windows operating system code-named Longhorn would be a...

Microsoft went to great pains in November to get the word out that its Windows operating system code-named Longhorn would be a client-only release, but Brian Valentine, the senior vice-president who heads the company's Windows division, has said there may be a new server operating system released with Longhorn, which is now pegged for 2005.

Valentine said support for some of the new client capabilities being enabled in Longhorn, such as richer collaboration and integrated storage, will require infrastructure services on top of the server operating system. How those additions or changes will be packaged and delivered - whether in a service pack, separate download, overlay or new operating system release - has yet to be decided, he added.

"We'll do whatever makes the most sense and is easiest on our customers," he said.

Valentine said he doesn't think operating system waves can be absorbed by customers any faster than in two- to three-year cycles. That means the successor to Longhorn, code-named Blackcomb, is now loosely pegged for 2007 or 2008.

Those dates extend the most recent timelines that Microsoft has supplied. Until last week, company officials had been saying that Longhorn wouldn't ship before mid-2004 and that Blackcomb wouldn't ship before late 2005 or early 2006.

Also contrary to prior information supplied by Microsoft, Blackcomb may have both client and server releases, according to Valentine. Microsoft had indicated that Blackcomb would be for servers only, but last week Valentine said that every Windows wave has to include a desktop operating system because "we always want to demonstrate the infrastructure with improvements in our own end-user device stuff".

Valentine said a new server kernel will probably be required for the Blackcomb release, so he expects that there will be both client and server operating system releases. But he was quick to add that no commitments have been made yet and that it's too early to tell if there will be a Windows Server 2005.

To support client capabilities in Longhorn, Valentine said, minor or simple infrastructure services might be delivered as part of an optional service pack. But he said the Windows team wants to restrict service packs primarily to bug fixes.

Valentine said more extensive changes will likely be delivered separately. He pointed to the real-time communications capabilities being enabled in the next version of Office as one example. He said that will spur the need for a real-time communications infrastructure involving the server operating system.

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