During his keynote address on day two of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), Microsoft Senior Vice President of the Windows Client Division, detailed his company's roadmap for delivering Longhorn, the next major Windows version. Contrary to previous reports, Longhorn will not ship in beta form until early 2004, and will not be released to manufacturing until 2005, Poole said.
"There will be a huge wave of excitement for the industry when Longhorn ships in 2005," Poole noted. "There's been a lot of speculation about whether we'd do an interim release before then. I don't think so. Instead, we will have additional releases, follow-ons, for Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, that focus on fit-and-finish and support for international markets." These follow-ons, which will be marketed as XP MCE Version 2 and XP Tablet PC Version 2, respectively, will include new features like better handwriting recognition for non-English languages and new Media Center Guide data for European TV. According to Poole's timeline, Tablet PC Version 2 will ship in late 2003, while MCE Version 2 will ship in 2004. However, MCE Version 2 will definitely ship before the end of this year.
Regarding Longhorn, Poole says that the road to Longhorn is shorter than it appears, but that the company has a lot of work to do. In March, the company delivered to developers its first preview look at Longhorn, he said. WinHEC, this week in New Orleans, is the second major milestone for the product, and the first time the company has publicly revealed details about Longhorn. The next major milestone, at October's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), will include a pre-beta 1 build of Longhorn, which developers can use to work on drivers, applications, and services designed for the new system. In 2004, Microsoft will deliver the Beta 1 and Beta 2 release of Longhorn, Poole said, and then the company will RTM Longhorn sometime in 2005.
These Longhorn milestone dates are a bit later than previously thought, as this year's PDC was the original target for Longhorn Beta 1. However, most industry observers had expected Longhorn to slip until 2005, so the product's final release date comes as no surprise.