At Microsoft's worldwide partner conference this week, Microsoft finally admitted that Longhorn won't see the light of day until 2006.
This isn't a guess on my part, educated or otherwise. Or flame bait. Or conjecture. This is straight from the horses' mouths.
At the show this week, several Microsoft execs casually slipped into their presentations that Longhorn is three years away from debut. Last time I did the math, that was not 2005, as promised just a few months ago. Nor is it even the wishy-washy "2005+" that a few execs had taken to attaching to their product timetables. The new target is 2006, plain and simple.
Did the company think no one would notice? Or maybe after all that Abita beer on draft served up at the Friday night partner party at the House of Blues, that no one could count?
Maybe Microsoft is assuming that tacking another year onto a product that's already far from debut wouldn't matter. But if Longhorn client is three years away, that means the rest of the Longhorn wave also is three years from cresting.
That means there will be no Visual Studio tools release for two years after "Whidbey" (which Microsoft is still insisting will be a late 2004 product). No Office 12 until 2006. And Longhorn Server — which was expected, until this week, in 2006 — is now, more likely than not a 2007 product (given that it was set to lag the client release by a year).
For some customers, a year delay actually might be a relief. Not everyone wants and needs major product upgrades every two years. And for Microsoft, which is in the midst of a major campaign to convince existing customers to upgrade to Windows XP and Office XP, a delay may help fuel such a push.
But Microsoft has been talking to its partners about Longhorn since 2001, at least. (I wrote my first story on "Indigo," the Web services stack at the heart of Longhorn, two years ago).
Each year, we heard that more and more can't-live-without features would be baked into Longhorn. The ultimate in security (Next Generation Secure Computing Base, a k a "Palladium")? Longhorn. Self-healing/self-managing systems? The infrastructure will be baked into Longhorn. A simpler Windows-presentation infrastructure? Just hang on for Longhorn. The next version of Internet Explorer? Not available in any way other than as part of Longhorn.
Earlier this year, Microsoft execs proclaimed the company had decided against introducing a stop-gap interim Windows release between XP and Longhorn. That didn't look like a bad strategy when Longhorn client was a 2004 product. Even as a 2005 product, the idea of foregoing a "Shorthorn" wasn't outrageous. But now that it's 2006? Five years without a new desktop? That's a long time.
Even CEO Steve Ballmer seemingly is champing at the bit for a new release. In talking up XP Service Pack 2 — which Microsoft has delayed until Q2/Q3 of next year in order to include a bunch of new security technologies in the SP — Ballmer called SP2 "a new version of Windows XP." Source