Microsoft Cancels Neptune, Readies 'Whistler'

In a surprising turn of events, Microsoft has combined development of Neptune, its upcoming consumer version of Windows NT, and Odyssey, the successor to Windows 2000, into a new operating system dubbed 'Whistler.'

For over two years Microsoft has intended to migrate all version of Windows over to the Windows NT kernel, but with new editions of Windows 9x continually waiting in the wings, it was not until this past summer that Microsoft announced Neptune - the first NT-based consumer OS. Neptune began development on August 13th of last year, with a prototype based upon Windows 2000. The Neptune team worked on adding user interface enhancements to daily Windows 2000 syncs and sent out Developer Release 1 to testers in late December. Neptune was slated to show off a new user interface that allowed for easy digital media management and included 'Activity Centers' that were cut from Windows Millennium.


While Neptune development continued, Microsoft was also planning the next business Windows, codenamed Odyssey. Odyssey was to succeed Windows 2000 for the business environment and contain the same code-base as Neptune.

According to Microsoft representatives, "'Whistler' is the code name for the next iteration of Windows. In an effort to streamline our Windows development efforts, the work being done on
'Neptune' and 'Odyssey' were combined to a singular effort now known as 'Whistler.'



Microsoft refused to comment on why the decision was made to combine the two projects, although many in the industry feel it has a strong correlation to Microsoft appointing Jim Allchin head of a unified Windows Division.


It is not known yet whether Whistler will follow the same schedule as Neptune, which was set to hit Beta 1 when Millennium ships this Fall and final release in Q3 2001. Microsoft declined to give any official word, stating "it is too early at this point to discuss product specifics."



Microsoft's silence has only fueled speculation about Whistler, first announced in Paul Thurrott's WinInfo. Because the new OS has the same codename as a text-to-speech technology being developed by Microsoft Research, many assumed the two would be intertwined. However, eFront has learned they are in fact very different, unrelated projects. Alex Acero, Senior Researcher for the Whistler speech technology, told eFront "Our Whistler stood for "Windows Highly Intelligent Stochastic TaLkER". I don't know how the Windows group came up with the same name. It's not the first time that the same acronym has been used by two separate groups in the company: there are many projects in the company after all and the law of probability would favor that."


Whistler may also contain a new extensible user interface, outlined in a recent job description on Microsoft's Web site.

It is unlikely Microsoft will give any details regarding Whistler at this early stage of development. Even Neptune beta testers were in disbelief when hearing the news, because Microsoft had said nothing about the cancellation.

Whistler will hit the streets in both a business and consumer version, allowing Microsoft to finally reach its long-standing goal of a combined code-base.

Microsoft can be found at http://www.microsoft.com.

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