Microsoft Plans Follow-On To Windows Server 2003 - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Plans Follow-On To Windows Server 2003

With Longhorn's release date unclear, interim versions of Windows seem to be the new strategy.

Microsoft will likely release another server version of Windows before the next-generation Longhorn operating system that's been the focus of the company's development efforts and marketing discussions for months.

The upgrade would serve as an interim product between Windows Server 2003, released last April, and Longhorn, a future platform that has yet to be assigned a target delivery date. "We're considering, and it's likely we will do, an update to Windows Server 2003," says Jeff Price, senior director in Microsoft's Windows server group. Microsoft recently revealed plans for an interim release of its desktop operating system, code-named Windows XP Reloaded.

Rob Helm, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft, doesn't expect Longhorn server until late 2007 at the earliest. If accurate, that would mean Microsoft's latest server operating systems would be 3-1/2 years apart, a long time given the new features constantly under development for Windows. "That's why they're starting to talk about an interim release," Helm says.

The purpose, Price says, would be to roll together new functionality that wasn't included in Windows Server 2003 at the time of its release, but which will be available before Longhorn. Microsoft typically releases new functionality as feature packs that can be downloaded by customers. Examples of Windows Server 2003 feature packs include Microsoft's new Windows Rights Management and Sharepoint Services technologies.

The company is also working on future technologies that could be available before Longhorn is completed, such as an update to Microsoft's ASP.Net middleware for Web services. The advantage of an interim server operating system is that existing feature packs and new technology can be integrated and tested for customers, Helm says.

Microsoft is also planning to release a service pack for Windows Server 2003 in the second half of this year. Service packs, however, are generally used to patch and protect the operating system, Price says, not add new features.

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