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In for the Longhaul

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

When will Windows boss Jim Allchin bring his warring Windows factions under control?

The troops are leaking, and beginning to fly some quite speculative kites, all of which gives us little confidence that the Windows project is under any kind of control at all. We've become conditioned to such a long delay before Longhorn, that almost any Net rumor can gain some credence, by dint of being "news". So let's have a look at the latest.

The spectre of an "XP Second Edition" reappeared last week - and this is the third appearance, by our count - only this time it received short shrift from seasoned Windows-watchers. XP "Second Editions" have appeared before in the popular prints. We recorded the phenomenon before in March and November 2002. But last week the apparition struck again.

Officially, Microsoft hasn't confirmed anything other than that "XP Reloaded". This is the current incarnation, and if you believe what you read on the Web, is an internal codename for something. Stop the Presses! But this doesn't tell us anything we didn't know a week ago.

It is worth examining the options, and marveling once again at how bureaucratic and faction-ridden the Windows development process has become. Old-timers will remember the days, when Microsoft last had real competition on the desktop, when it could manage to release a new version of Windows fairly frequently. And it did.

Microsoft's biggest customers, particularly those who have paid upfront for a Licensing 6.0 subscription, can at least expect some coherent roadmap. They'll be as surprised as anyone to discover that a major release of Windows is a few months away, which is what the current spate of rumors suggest.

XP Reloaded

Paul Thurrott set the ball rolling with a confident declaration that "the interim XP version will ship as a new retail product that replaces existing retail boxed copies of XP and as a set of updates, called XP Reloaded, that existing XP users can install separately."

Note that Paul doesn't say that any Longhorn features will make it into "Reloaded". "Reloaded would probably ship next year," chimes CNET.

But Joe Wilcox, now at analyst firm Jupiter Research, pours cold water on the suggestion.

"The name is right, but little else," he writes. "That doesn’t mean Microsoft wouldn’t release an interim build, just that none is planned and Windows XP Reloaded is not a new OS version."

Indeed, and from what we can glean, "Reloaded" doesn't even refer to a planned milestone; it's what Joe characterizes as "an evangelism program". In other words, it is a marketing codename. Reloaded could well amount to no more than an advertising campaign telling us to buy more Windows.

Microsoft already has a major service pack prepped for release around the summer. Creating an "XP Second Edition" has been a serious option for a couple of years, and Redmond already abandoned plans for an XP SE once.

Watchful of Apple's growing mindshare - it inked a deal with HP to put iTunes on PCs - Redmond is desperately keen to deliver Windows Media Player 10 into the consumer channels. And the publicity that attends a full-blown "release" is a great way to try and regain some mindshare.

But Microsoft doesn't really need an all-singing, all-dancing consumer launch to load the channel with a new version of WMP. OEMs aren't in a position to unbundle Windows service packs even if they wanted to. An interim Windows product release still looks the most expensive and most confusing way of getting users to upgrade.

For enlightenment, we turned to Microsoft marketroid and über-blogger Robert Scoble, whose evangelism was criminally ignored by the media last week. "Personally, I'm all into letting the expectations slip," he writes Well, Robert, you've certainly come to the right place. ®

Related Slipped Expectations

Windows Longhaul? Longhorn could be 2008, says Gartner
Windows Longhorn slips again, becomes megaproject
Bill Gates: 'Longhorn is going to be late'

Now MS trails 2006 for Windows Longhorn


Allchin confirms Longhorn delay
Gates confirms Windows Longhorn for 2003, Blackcomb MIA?
Microsoft reshuffles Windows roadmap, full .NET delayed?
In victory, Microsoft morphs into IBM and loses it

Related 'XP Second Edition' apparitions

Windows XP version 2 mooted for 2003?
Hello WinXP SE: Microsoft reshuffles roadmaps, again
WinXP 'Second Edition' leaks

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