It turns out that the road to Longhorn is not quite as straight a line as expected. Sometime later this year Microsoft may - or may not - release an interim version of XP called “XP Reloaded.” (Some insiders half-ironically refer to it as “Shorthorn.”) That release may - or may not - include new multimedia features and other goodies beyond SP-2, due out the middle of this year. And Microsoft may - or may not - release Longhorn in 2005…or 2006…or 2007.
There. Is all that clearer to you now?
Word leaking out from Redmond about XP Reloaded seems designed to be confusing. Most people seem to hint that it will include SP-2, all patches released since XP was launched, plus a new version of Windows Media Player. But some observers expect there to be more, including new wireless features and faster searching capabilities.
How confusing is the message? Microsoft won’t even call “XP Reloaded” an “interim release.” Why care about such semantics? Because a year ago, Will Poole, senior vice-president of the Windows Client Division, announced that there would be no interim Windows desktop release before Longhorn.
So what does it all mean? My guess is that it’s a signal that Longhorn is proving a tougher nut to crack than Microsoft expected, and that the new OS won’t be out until 2007. And if Longhorn won’t be out until 2007, Microsoft puts itself in a bind with its customers, because that will be six years between XP’s release in 2001 and Longhorn in 2007. Many corporate customers have signed up for Microsoft’s Software Assurance licensing program, which offers a contract for software maintenance and upgrades for a three-year period. If there’s nothing new in six years, that’s two cycles in which Microsoft doesn’t deliver anything substantial of value. But if Microsoft delivers an interim somewhere in there, it’s off the hook.
As far as I’m concerned, Microsoft should just bite the bullet, call XP Reloaded an interim release and be done with it. The company shouldn’t rush Longhorn through just to please those in the Software Assurance program. Better to spend the time to do the operating system right and release it in 2007, rather than release a bug-ridden OS like Windows Me that was rushed out the door to meet a marketing goal.
What do you think about “XP Reloaded”? Do you expect it to affect the release date of Longhorn? And should it matter if it’s called an “interim release”? Let me know.