Microsoft Windows Server 2003 update to precede Longhorn

Microsoft is planning to produce an interim release of Windows in 2005, before Longhorn, the next update, which is not due until...

Microsoft is planning to produce an interim release of Windows in 2005, before Longhorn, the next update, which is not due until 2006/2007, analysts claim.

Based on input from users, it is likely that Microsoft will update Windows Server 2003 to make it easier for users to take advantage of new technology on the Windows platform platform.

"However, because we are still engaged in this process and cannot provide details on naming or packaging, etc this far in advance, we have no further information at this time," Microsoft said.

One way Microsoft is expected to deliver the technology is by bundling together products and services that were released post-Windows Server 2003 and which are available as individual add-ons to the operating system.

In a statement, Microsoft said, "Customers tell us they are happy with the innovation we are delivering on the Windows Server 2003 platform and would like an easy to consume delivery vehicle for these updates."

Mark Tennant, Windows server product marketing manager, said, "We are looking at a number of value-add technologies such as Windows Sharepoint Services, Windows Rights Manager for Office 2003, Active Directory management and migration tools which today are free downloads from the Microsoft website." Tennant could not confirm how this would be charged.

The question is when this release will ship and what it will contain.

In a research paper looking at the upgrade options for users, Gartner analyst Michael Silver said a new, sellable Windows release in 2004 is highly unlikely because of two factors: Microsoft is working on Service Pack 2 for Windows XP in 2004, which ties up Microsoft's development resources; and businesses would not be able to deploy both SP2 and a new release of the XP operating system in one year.

One option for Microsoft is to offer the SP2 security service pack as a full version of Windows XP. However, it would be difficult for Microsoft to sell this since enterprises without Software Assurance or Enterprise Agreement deals would be reluctant to purchase another product to fix the security deficiencies in XP.

Taking this into account, Silver predicted that the most likely outcome would be for Microsoft to release an interim version of the Windows client operating system in the fourth quarter of 2005.

This would allow it to fulfil Software Assurance customers' expectations of a new version of Windows during their contract period.

Silver said, "We would expect this release to be more of a 'Windows XP Second Edition' than a limited release of Longhorn, meaning that the most interesting features of Longhorn, such as WinFS and the new user interface, would not be in the XP Second Edition."

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