Microsoft reins in Longhorn for 2006 launch

Microsoft said on Friday that it is aiming to release Longhorn in the first half of 2006–a move that will require the company to scale back some of its more ambitious plans for the next version of Windows.

The company said Longhorn will still include three major advances: a new file system known as WinFS, a new graphics engine dubbed Avalon and a Web Services architecture known as Indigo.

“There may be specific features within those subsystems that will be scaled back,” lead product manager Greg Sullivan said. Sullivan would not identify which features have been trimmed but said such efforts are typical of all new releases of the Windows operating system.

“It’s a matter of scaling back by degrees,” Sullivan said. “In some cases, the scenarios won’t be as all-encompassing.”

Microsoft has been reluctant to pin down a date for the launch of the Windows update, though Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said recently that 2006 was a likely target. Even now, there is no public target for Longhorn’s release, Sullivan said, but acknowledged the company’s internal goal of shipping it by the middle of 2006.

Microsoft plans to cut features from Longhorn and roll them into a future release of Windows, code-named Blackcomb, Jim Allchin, vice president of Microsoft’s platform group, told CNET last month. Details on the changes to Longhorn were first reported earlier Friday by BusinessWeek.

Work on Longhorn slowed after Microsoft shifted programmers from that effort to the task of adding security features into Windows XP Service Pack 2, or SP2, an update due to be released shortly.

In an interview with CNET last month, CEO Steve Ballmer said Microsoft had made a decision to prioritize SP2 at Longhorn’s expense. Ballmer said all the major components would still be part of the OS but that the company was planning to “carve a couple of features around the edges.”

Microsoft also said Friday that the next version of Office, due to arrive at about the same time as Longhorn, will run on prior versions of Windows. The company has talked about an Office version designed to specifically take advantage of Longhorn’s new features.

“Microsoft knows that customers have different roll-out needs,” a representative said. “We’ll be working to ensure they can use next version of Office with other recent versions of Windows as well (as Longhorn).”

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