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Hello WinXP SE: Microsoft reshuffles roadmaps, again

Longhorn delayed - Blackcomb MIA?

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Exclusive Microsoft has reshuffled its roadmaps once again, and begun briefing partners and customers to expect an interim upgrade to Windows XP, dubbed XP "SE", in the first quarter of next year.

This buys more time for the Longhorn team to complete the complex task of implementing a native database file store, which Jon Honeyball first revealed to the world at The Register here, last August. In January we exclusively confirmed that the native, SQL Server-derived database would go in Longhorn, with the Blackcomb release - originally earmarked for the transition - pushed out to 2004.

XP SE will be principally a consolidation release. Candidates for inclusion are the essential .NET client-side plumbing: the common language runtime (CLR), Internet Explorer 7.0 and DirectX 9.0, and a mature Bluetooth stack. Microsoft has blown hot and cold on Bluetooth - mostly cold, actually - but with chipsets at the $5 mark, it's going to be ubiquitious in PDAs and phones by 2003.

Microsoft has more to offer to offer in the consumer department, (and DirectX is essentially a consumer technology), and as we observed this week, the Mira tablet hinges on a multi-user, RDP-enabled XP acting as the server. Windows XP Home edition doesn't come with RDP or SMP, so this is one obvious area for improvement.

One caveat: whether an XP SE will actually appear at all is another matter. All such briefings have the flavor of market testing exercise, and from experience we know that Windows roadmaps are only valid until they're superseded, and this can happen fairly frequently until the official, offical product is declared. This is exactly what happened with WinME, and to an extent with Win98 SE.

Microsoft is aware that corporate customers' number one beef is that there are too many Windows updates, so it's possible that if they complain loud enough, we'll see a succession of service packs instead, which is what happened to NT 4.0 in the three-and-a-half year wait for 5.0, née 2000.

Possible, but perhaps not likely. Redmond is addicted to the near-annual fix of revenue from a major release of Windows. And if you were in the position that Microsoft is in, that's an itch you'd find hard not to scratch, too. ®

*The Win XP Competition Although the Longhorn database manoever has received acres of coverage since we brought it to the world's attention, our friends at C|NUT only caught up with the news last week, with one of those please-give-us-an-award, epic production jobs with a matching, Ben Hur-style credits lists. So to show we're not bitter, we invite you to guess (closing date midnight Pacific Time tonight) how many days will elapse before the yellow-and-black-and-rectangular dot.com first mentions XP SE. The prize is a bright red vulture T-shirt, size XL. It's the only red one we have left here in San Francisco. Hurry, hurry! ®

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