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MS cancels Neptune, consumer version of Win2k

Incredible rotating roadmap merges twin-track Win2k development back into one

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Neptune, the consumer version of Win2k, has been cancelled, according to Windows-watcher Paul Thurrott. Instead, Microsoft is merging the project with Odyssey, which was intended to be the next version of Windows 2000. This effectively completes the bizarre little detour Microsoft's Windows roadmap took early last year, when Microsoft started making big promises for both the Neptune and Millennium projects. Millennium was originally pitched as a consumer OS built on top of Windows 98, but the initially ambitious talk faded swiftly, and it slid back to service pack status as 1999 came to a close. Thurrott proposes that Millennium will now be out under the tag Windows 98 Third Edition in the summer, and that seems a reasonable enough estimate. Really, the only question now over Millennium is whether Microsoft will just ship it as an OEM refresh or whether it'll take another bite at retail OS revenue, as it did with Win98 SE. People who remember the days when Microsoft was describing Cairo as not an OS at all, but a set of technologies will be tickled that history is repeating itself. According to Thurrott, "Microsoft Windows Group Product Manager Rob Bennett says that 'Neptune' is actually the code-name for a group of technologies and not the name of a future version of Consumer Windows." But note also the parallels with Millennium's progress. Initially Millennium could have been a radical ground-up rewrite, but any plans in that direction don't seem to have got much past 'secret blueprints leaked to ZD' stage. Instead it took a characteristic MS development path, with various features first being proposed for addition/integration then abandoned, until the base OS wasn't going to be significantly different from the previous one. Like, er, Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE. The bits that weren't going to make it into Millennium were instead proposed for inclusion in Neptune, but during development Neptune seems to have lost its own radical rewrite elements and become a set of add-on technologies for Win2k instead. One might observe that the musical chairs aspect of Microsoft's OS roadmaps speaks of a fundamental misunderstanding of componentised software development. But you can see what's coming next, can't you friends? Microsoft's got some cool technologies which, with considerable work under the covers, it could ship as a consumer version of Win2k, i.e. Neptune. But having got Win2k out of the door it's also got the Odyssey project to provide the next rev of Win2k, so rather than do two parallel radical rewrites, wouldn't it make more sense to merge the two? The codename for this is Whistler, and it's due for first beta next year, says Thurrott. You can see the hand of Jim Allchin in all this. Jim, now Microsoft's unchallenged Windows supremo, was driven near-demented by the difficulties involved in synching IE development on both NT and Win98, and the downgrading of Millennium, the death of the consumer Windows division and now the return of Neptune to the One True Church are all steps away from a repeat of this kind of nightmare. Of course the snags that spawned Millennium in the first place, the difficulty of supporting existing games under Win2k and getting the footprint down to consumer levels, still exist. But look at it this way. Presuming Millennium does ship as Third Edition in the summer, that takes care of 2000-2001. Fourth Edition might be a little embarrassing, but it's perfectly feasible then to put out another rev of the Win9x code and call it something else, if that's what's required. And at some point along the way, Microsoft might even manage to ship a version of Win2k that'll play in consumer markets. You never know. ® Paul Thurrott's WinInfo See also: Win2k-based consumer OS rides again as Millennium fades MS roadmap for next Win9x and consumer NT leaks out

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