April 30, 2001 4:35 PM PDT

Microsoft names, delays Windows 2002

Microsoft has gone back to the calendar to name the upcoming server version of Windows--but the company has given itself six more months to get the product out the door.

Microsoft announced Monday that it has chosen the name "Windows 2002" for the operating system that will supplant Windows 2000 Server, Advanced Server and Datacenter--the versions that run the powerful networked computers called servers. Windows 2002's close cousin, Windows XP, is intended for use on desktops, laptops and workstations and is the first of the products Microsoft based on the software code-named Whistler.

Using "2002" carries on a date-oriented naming tradition that began with Windows 95 but that Microsoft veered away from for its upcoming Windows XP, short for "experience."

But Windows 2002 likely will arrive later than hoped--possibly by the end of 2001, a spokeswoman for Microsoft said, but more likely in the first half of 2002.

Last October, Microsoft said in a statement that versions of Whistler--now known as Window XP and Windows 2002--"are expected to be generally available in the second half of 2001."

The delay carries on a tradition of delayed operating system releases that has plagued Microsoft as well as its competitors.

"If there have been any major releases of a Windows operating system that have shipped on time, I am not aware of them," said Robert Francis Group analyst Michael Dortch. "Any information technology executive with more than four months' experience has probably already planned for this."

The Whistler versions of Windows are key for Microsoft as it tries to create software that's less crash-prone.

For the first time, nearly all its operating systems will be spawned from the same code base--even "embedded" versions for devices such as video poker machines or set-top boxes. Only Windows CE for portable devices such as handheld computers comes from a separate lineage.

Currently, Microsoft's position is more complicated. Windows Millennium Edition for home users is based on the lineage that led through DOS to Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows 98. On the other hand, Windows 2000 for servers and business desktop computers is an extension of the Windows NT lineage.

Windows XP will be the first home computer product to be based on Windows NT.

For Windows 2002, Microsoft decided to stick with the calendar-based naming convention because of its familiarity to corporate computing personnel. "It seems prudent to continue with a similar naming paradigm," Bob O'Brien, group product manager for the Windows .Net server marketing program, said in a statement.

The slipped schedule is in response to comments from customers, Microsoft said. "Microsoft is very focused on listening to customer feedback, and feels strongly about not shipping the product until customers tell them they are ready," a spokeswoman said.

One of the major features coming with Windows 2002 is easier use of Active Directory, a Microsoft feature that keeps track of computers across company networks and what they can do, said Summit Strategies analyst Dwight Davis. A delay might hold up adoption of this feature, but otherwise is unlikely to affect Microsoft too much, he said.

"It's not as significant a release relative to Windows 2000 as Windows 2000 was to Windows NT," Davis said. The step is more minor--more like the step from Windows 95 to Windows 98.

Microsoft said Monday that Windows XP will include a version designed for Intel's upcoming 64-bit CPUs, the first of which is named Itanium and is due to arrive in computers by the end of June.

 

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