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Gartner Still Expects Interim Windows Before Longhorn

Microsoft is more likely than not to ship an interim client operating system before the release of Longhorn, a Gartner analyst predicted.

(SAN DIEGO) Although Bill Gates pointedly avoided confirming it here, Microsoft is more likely than not to ship an interim client operating system before the release of Longhorn, a Gartner analyst predicted.

Microsoft is formally committed to shipping Longhorn, a major release of the Windows client, and is also fairly close to delivering a Windows XP Service Pack 2, which contains a substantial security overhaul of the operating system. But the company is also rumored to be working on an interim release of the Windows client, dubbed Windows XP Reloaded. The company has also said it is considering some sort of re-release of Windows Server 2003 with all the add-on services and components included.

In one of its famed probability rankings, where Gartner gives the chances of something happening between 0.0 (definitely will not happen) and 1.0 (definitely will happen), Gartner rates the probability of an interim Windows release in the second half of 2005 at 0.6. Gartner analyst David Smith provided the rating during the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2004 this week in San Diego.

Earlier, in a Q&A session with Gartner Chairman and CEO Michael Fleisher at the symposium on Monday, Gates said Longhorn will be the next major operating system release — with an alpha version coming this year. As for the final Longhorn release date, Gates said, "People are speculating that we're out in '06 sometime and that's probably valid speculation, but this is not a date-driven release."

Fleisher followed up with, "So there isn't another Windows release before the 'Longhorn' release?" Gates responded, "Yes, there is a release called [Windows XP Service Pack 2]." Gates' answer, and Fleisher's lack of a specific follow-up, shed little light on the question of how seriously Microsoft is taking Windows XP Reloaded.

Nonetheless, Smith, Gartner's lead analyst covering Microsoft corporate strategies, said several problems stemming from the five-year gap between Windows XP and Longhorn will probably push Microsoft to an interim release. Smith argued that new revenues won't be generated, new functions won't appear, and customers on a three-year upgrade cycle could become impatient. Also, the company's reputation as an innovator could suffer.

New Windows OS Roadmap
(Source: *Gates, 3/28; **Gartner 3/31)
Product Date
Windows XP SP2*
late spring/ early summer
Longhorn alpha*
2004
Windows XP Reloaded**
late 2005
Longhorn*
2006

Smith suggested the interim version could contain some functions previously expected in Longhorn, such as desktop search functionality and "Indigo," Microsoft's code name for a set of .NET technologies that enable applications to communicate with each other using secure, reliable, transacted messaging.

If Microsoft ships an interim version of Windows, Gartner predicts, an interim version of Office also will ship in 2005 (0.8 probability) and Longhorn will not be available until at least the second half of 2007 (0.8 probability).

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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