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Gartner: Expect Windows 2003 Update in Form of Feature Packs

Gartner's lead analyst on Windows server operating systems weighed in at the market research house's major IT conference last week on what form an updated release of Windows Server 2003 might take.

Microsoft officials said recently that the company will update Windows Server 2003 in some way before the next full release of the product, the so-called Longhorn server. (See story). Microsoft officials say a re-release of Windows Server 2003 will build in all the add-on updates Microsoft has released since shipping the operating system last April. Microsoft has not said publicly whether those releases will take the form of a "Release 2" of Windows Server 2003, an option pack or some other deliverable.

At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2004 last week in San Diego, Gartner analyst Tom Bittman predicted that the update will come in the form of several optional feature packs between now and the ship date for Longhorn server, which Bittman pegs at 2007 or 2008.

Bittman guesses that Microsoft will offer the feature packs as optional installations packaged in logical groups. Two such groups he expects in 2004 are a security feature pack, and Virtual Server support. Feature packs will be used to deliver the new functionality, he said, because customers have indicated that they dislike having new features released through hot fixes.

Gartner’s roadmap for Windows Server 2003 predicts that Microsoft will ship Windows Server 2003 SP1 later in 2004, followed by a number of feature packs until Longhorn ships. On the client side, Gartner suggests that Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be released in the second half of 2004 (Microsoft has said SP2 will ship in late spring or early summer). Gartner also predicts (with an 0.6 probability rating, where 1.0 means an event is certain to happen) that a Windows XP Second Edition version will ship “in the late-2005 timeframe,” Bittman said.

Regarding security, Bittman said the company has made progress in changing its corporate culture to emphasize security. Gartner predicts that Microsoft will apply sufficient management attention and financial resources to make its server-based software products more secure than the industry average by 2005 (0.7 probability). Bittman added, however, that “Microsoft is not going to see zero defects in security. Period.”

Bittman also predicted that future worms and viruses will carry much more damaging payloads, and suggested that as Linux becomes more pervasive, “it will become as interesting a target [to hackers] as Microsoft.”

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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