Microsoft: Longhorn to Ship in 2005

In his WinHEC 2003 keynote Wednesday, Will Poole, senior vice president of the Windows Platforms Group, provided the first official insight into Microsoft's plans for delivering Longhorn.

As the first major Windows client release to follow Windows XP, Longhorn will serve as a substantial upgrade, bridging the gap between hardware and software.

Microsoft plans to truly kick off Longhorn at its Professional Developers Conference in October, likely releasing a pre-beta version at that point. Longhorn Beta 1 and Beta 2 will follow in 2004 and allow the company to hit a release to manufacturing in 2005.

"Over the course of 2004 you'll see a couple of releases in the betas for Longhorn and we'll see that coming to market in 2005," said Poole.

Alpha builds of Longhorn have already been seeded to developers, allowing Microsoft to "understand what people want to see from a pure development perspective," according to Poole. Three of these releases have found their way on the Internet, offering an early glimpse of the future operating system.

Poole downplayed rumors that Microsoft would release an interim Windows upgrade before Longhorn. "That's something that I don't expect us to do," he said.

"The weight of all the people in the Windows client division and across the platform's division, the weight of that effort that we're doing is around Longhorn and that's what we're focused on and we hope to get you all really pulling the same way so we can come out with a huge wave of excitement for the industry when Longhorn ships in 2005."

Earlier this week at WinHEC 2003, Microsoft and HP unveiled a concept design for the next generation Windows PC. The prototype, dubbed Athens, is tailored specifically for Longhorn as an all-in-one communications center.

Microsoft aims to work closely with manufacturers to better integrate hardware and software functionality, and deliver on the company's concept of an immersive computing experience by "making it just work."

"This is a huge, big, bet-the-company move, and it's one that we are very enthusiastic about what we're able to do here," said Poole. "The breakthrough work that we're going to do in Longhorn is going to really change the landscape of what consumers, what businesspeople see when they look at a new PC."

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