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Windows Longhaul? Longhorn could be 2008, says Gartner

Why this could be a big problem for Microsoft

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Longhorn in 2005 seems definitely off the agenda, and while it might ship in 2006, it could be delayed until 2008 or 2009, according to Gartner. According to a report of the Gartner Data Center Conference in Information Week, Gartner research VP Tom Bittman puts the likely release window between late 2006 and mid-2008.

The prediction isn't exactly as far out as it might appear on the surface, because he's talking (in Gartner's irritating probability-speak) of a 50 per cent probability of 2006, 40 per cent 2007 and 2008-2009 as outside chances. Major Microsoft projects do tend to slip pretty spectacularly, so history tells us none of these dates is entirely bonkers.

But we at The Register are becoming intrigued by what happens in the ever-stretching period between the shipment of Windows XP and the shipment of Longhorn. This gap is unprecedented, because in the past Microsoft has always had something half-credible to throw into the marketplace to keep interest alive and to keep the customers upgrading. Not having such a thing could have a pretty immediate adverse effect on consumer revenues, and there are more specific reasons why it could hurt in the corporate market.

Think yourself into the part - you're a business running Win2k or earlier clients, you've got the Microsoft sales people talking to you about upgrading to WinXP and Server 2003, and you've got the public prints and (cough) Microsoft's senior executives telling you Longhorn is the big deal upgrade. But what is it, when is it, and how feasible is it to wait for it? The Microsoft sales people can try to sell you .NET as here, and where it's at, but you surely have the growing impression that it's not quite where it's really at, because that's all about Longhorn.

Just a thought, people. Microsoft could be maiming its sales teams by sending them out without credible roadmaps, and talking up something it can't ship for years, just when Sun is starting to look dangerous on Microsoft's home turf, too. We think that if Microsoft can't nail Longhorn down absolutely to 2006 pretty soon, it's going to have to come up with some interim ideas to hold the fort. ®

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