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Microsoft looks to have delayed the release of Longhorn withdrawing a commitment to ship the next version of Windows in 2005.

Longhorn was originally supposed to ship in 2004. In May, this year release was pushed back to 2005. This week Longhorn's availability has been delayed even further, with Microsoft execs declining to say when exactly the operating system might ship, eWeek reports.

A Longhorn developer preview CD is to be distributed at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles next month. A broad beta will follow next year, Jim Allchin, group vice president of Microsoft's Windows Platform Group, said at a financial analyst meeting this summer.

Longhorn includes a major revamp of the Windows File System and is described by Redmond execs as Microsoft's "most revolutionary operating system to date". This sounds impressive until we remember that the company has said this about just about every version of its operating system since Windows 95.

This time around, however, the reason for the delay in the next version of Microsoft's operating system could extend beyond the purely technical. eWeek notes a theory that Microsoft is postponing the release of Longhorn until the remedy order made in settling an antitrust case against the software giant expires.

The order, issued last year and valid until 2007, forces Microsoft to license the protocols between its client and server environments to third parties.

But a Microsoft spokeswoman told eWeek that it was "highly unlikely" that Longhorn will be released after the consent decree expires in November 2007. "Any and all relevant APIs will be disclosed as documented on release of the product," she added. ®

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