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MS roadmaps Blackcomb, plans mid-year beta of next Win2k rev

Old one-two returns - Blackcomb's hard, Whistler's a lot easier, and shippable

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When Microsoft let it be known that it would merge development of the Win2k-based Odyssey and Neptune projects into one single development effort, Whistler, we predicted that there would be more news on the evolution of the MS development roadmap RSN. And were we right? A few weeks later, news has started to leak of a Whistler successor for the 2002 timeframe, codenamed Blackcomb. The information, leaked to Mary Jo "Secret Files" Foley of Smart Reseller, seems to have been dished out to Microsoft's developers around the same time as they were told about the Odyssey-Neptune merger. That move combined development of Odyssey, the next business version of Win2k, with Neptune, the fabled consumer implementation of Win2k, the rationale being that there was no sense in running two parallel developments of the same codebase, considering the overlap. The appearance of Blackcomb on the horizon doesn't mean a reversion to the twin-track consumer-business approach for Win2k code, but it does tell us quite a bit about the approach Microsoft is going to take with Whistler. Last year Mary Jo got a secret files drop that revealed Microsoft's plans for Neptune and Millennium. These seemed wildly over-ambitious to us at the time, and the subsequent downscaling of Millennium really was awfully predictable. Neptune did however remain as an apparently ambitious big project that would be difficult to ship. Until, that is, it was merged into Whistler. Whistler's appearance signalled that Microsoft was going to concentrate on shaking the bugs out of Win2k and use that as a stable foundation for future projects, rather than getting itself tied up in radical consumer-specific kernel rewrites. Now, two things about the latest news make it clearer that this is happening. First of all Microsoft has roadmapped an alpha release of Whistler for April, and a public beta for July. Microsoft will still be engaged in the Win2k debugging exercise in the run-up to the alpha, and that scheduling is so tight that it isn't conceivable for Whistler to be much more than Win2k-plus. So Neptune has been downscaled too, right? But not to the extent that happened to Millennium. We can expect Microsoft to try to get to stable code fast, and then concentrate on adding 'must haves' that are sufficiently attractive to make it a feasible candidate to supplant Millennium in late 2001. Its worth noting here that Whistler isn't being seen as a platform for Microsoft's Next Generation Windows Services architecture. NGWS will be a relatively nebulous project until MS fleshes it out as promised this Spring, so skipping it for Whistler is another sign that the objective is to ship code in a reasonable timeframe. The other important point is the very (or should we say 'hazy'?) existence of the Blackcomb project. Microsoft OS development historically oscillates between Big Bang projects and projects that ship. Early in the development cycle the planners blue-sky like crazy, and leaks of this process get blown up into huge projects that really aren't do-able. But during development there's an opposing process that brings the feature set down to something shippable. The lengthy development periods for Win 95 and Win2k are obvious examples of where these opposing forces didn't balance correctly, but Win 98, 98 SE and (probably) Millennium are happier cases for MS, if not earth-shattering new experiences for the customers. So what's happening now is that Whistler is moving into the 'shippable' category, while Blackcomb can act as a repository for all of the stuff that won't go into Whistler, in order to make it shippable. As Blackcomb won't be with us until late 2002 at the earliest, there's currently plenty of time for blue-skying. And considering that's two years away, we can safely predict that whatever it is that Microsoft is currently speccing for Blackcomb definitely won't ship. But that something else will, and it might be related. We note, incidentally, that Mary Jo's sources say Whistler is likely to come in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, but we'd caution you not to hold your breath. ® See also: Smart Reseller story MS cancels Neptune

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