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Whidbey release date also gets wobbly

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Microsoft yesterday confirmed a decision to delay the next versions of SQL Server and Visual Studio until next year. These are needed for testing and quality assurance work, says the software giant, which until recently has been talked of a 2004 debut for both packages.

Analyst Gartner questions the improving QA justification, at least in the case of the next version of SQL Server, arguing that this second major delay (after one in June 2003) is a sign of a "lack of clear focus and direction for SQL Server within Microsoft".

Microsoft has little to say about the delay of the next version its Visual Studio development suite, (codenamed "Whidbey" but reportedly to be rechristened Visual Studio 2005), but it has published a revised timetable for the development of the next version of SQL Server.

The next version of the database software (formerly codenamed Yukon) will now be called SQL Server 2005. Microsoft has confirmed it is adding a third Beta test cycle to its development roadmap.

The second beta of SQL Server 2005 is targeted for the first half of 2004. A third beta is pencilled in for sometime in the second half of this year.

This additional beta cycle is angled towards giving Microsoft customers' more confidence that the final version of SQL Server Yuko” will be suitable for early deployment in production environments, according to Microsoft.

Release to manufacture for SQL Server 2005 is targeted for the first half of next year however this date might yet slip back even later.

Microsoft says the "timing of the final release [of SQL Server 2005] will ultimately depend on customer and partner beta feedback".

"Microsoft aims to deliver releases which are quality driven, not a date-driven release."

Gartner reckons that SQL Server 2005 is unlikely to ship before the second quarter of 2005. Microsoft will have a job on its hands resetting partner expectations and bringing customers on Software Assurance (SA) maintenance agreements disgruntled about the delay of improved products back on side, the influential analyst house forecasts.

Even when SQL Server 2005 (Yukon) arrives it may lack promised features.

In a research note Gartner said: "SQL Server customers will likely find diverse and valuable features in SQL Server 2005, but the release lacks several competitive and promised features (for example, clustering and hash partitioning).

"Microsoft’s dilution across multiple audiences with a diverse set of product features will likely leave most customers less than satisfied. Potential customers may also find that Yukon alone does not provide major features that will motivate them to move quickly to SQL Server [2005]."

Gartner advises end users not to plan for Yakon's deployments before the release of two service packs or much before early 2006. ®

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