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Whistler beta 1 out, ‘phased’ rollout planned for H2 2001

Beginnings of consumer-business version forkings?

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Beta 1 of Whistler has finally been released. As the intended date has slipped back several weeks, presumably the day was largely accidental, but Halloween does have a certain resonance in the Microsoft canon. The beta, going out to partners, customers and over 200,000 developers via the Microsoft Developer Network, is available in both 32- and 64-bit versions, and there are a couple of interesting bits of additional news Microsoft slipped into the announcement.

For starters, Microsoft is talking about a "phased release" that will begin with desktop versions and be followed by server. This is intended to "bring the reliability of Windows 2000 to consumers as soon as possible and address the feedback from enterprise customers." You might interpret this as meaning Microsoft is clearing the way so it can get the consumer Whistler out in time for the becoming-traditional annual Q3 refresh.

Microsoft simply says that both versions of the product will be "generally available in the second half of 2001," so we can expect the desktop version to be shooting for Q3, while server will likely pop out in Q4, with major shipments starting in Q1 2002.

That "address the feedback from enterprise customers" also has some significance. Although Whistler is intended as the first common code base for both consumers and business users, the requirements of the two groups obviously are different, and this will be particularly obvious when it comes to the skinnable UI Microsoft is planning for Whistler. A consumer UI will obviously look, feel and operate differently from a business UI. And of course there will be management features in the business version that aren't needed in the consumer one.

With Microsoft on the one hand wanting to get the consumer Win2k out quick, and on the other wanting to build in time for feedback from enterprise customers, we might speculate that the "phased" rollout could also mean the release of the two desktop versions will be staggered, and that although Microsoft is moving to the one code base, it will try to present the implementations of Whistler as two distinct product lines.

We note, incidentally, that the talking head rolled out for the beta announcement was Windows division VP Brian Valentine rather than former Win2k shipmeister Jim Allchin. According to our records Jim is still titularly in charge of this stuff, and ought by now to be back from his extended leave. He might not wish to dirty his hands with a mere beta announcement, but has anybody seen him recently? We can't help noticing he filed to sell a third of his shares in MS, worth approx $23 million, last month... ®

Your Whistler slippages tonight:
Whistler slipping to 2002?
Beta 1 not out yet, but MS sets April date for Whistler gold code
Win2k successor Whistler slips as MS strokes developers

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