August 26, 2004 4:00 AM PDT

Microsoft preps XP push, mulls Longhorn 'priorities'

With a long-awaited security update to Windows XP now complete, Microsoft is preparing a holiday season push for the 3-year-old operating system--and is set to revisit ambitious plans for the next major revision, News.com has learned.

That revision, code-named Longhorn, one of the most difficult and complicated in the company's history, has fallen further behind this year, as Microsoft shifted developers from the project and onto Windows XP Service Pack 2, which took longer than expected. Now the company faces the task of getting Longhorn under control and making XP seem fresh during a longer-than-usual wait between operating system updates.

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What's new:
Microsoft is preparing a holiday-season push for its Windows XP operating system.

Bottom line:
Microsoft faces three major challenges: how to market XP this holiday season, what to do in the years before the next major OS release, and what changes to make to Longhorn, if any, to ensure a timely update.

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"SP2 was a major milestone for the Windows development team," the company said in a statement Wednesday to CNET News.com. "Now that it has been released, it is a natural time to revisit Longhorn priorities."

With SP2 shipped and Longhorn still in development, Microsoft faces three major challenges: how to market XP this holiday season, what to do in the years before the next major operating system release, and what changes to make to Longhorn, if any, to ensure a timely update.

The answers could have a significant effect on consumers, partners and even investors, since Microsoft dominates its industry. Although the technology behind Longhorn has drawn praise, the long wait for the update has raised some concerns. Major partners, including Intel, have worried about the lag time between major operating system updates.

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Many investors have expressed concern about whether Microsoft can release new software fast enough to spur the company's growth, as well as that of Microsoft-dependent technology companies. In the meantime, Linux providers and other companies with innovative technology, such as Google, are making inroads.

Although Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was enthusiastic when unveiling an early version of Longhorn at a developer event last October, he has been largely mum in recent months. "We're not saying much new about Longhorn today, it's fair to say," Gates told financial analysts during a meeting last month at Microsoft headquarters.

"Now that (SP2) has been released, it is a natural time to revisit Longhorn priorities."
--Microsoft
Even though Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer were coy with Wall Street, Longhorn is a key part of the company's financial future. Windows is one of Microsoft's main profit centers, and the company had planned to tie other software, including the next update of Office, to Longhorn's release. Microsoft has already scaled back those plans, however, saying for example that the next version of Office will work with older versions of Windows as well.

As for Longhorn's rollout, Microsoft said in April that it had pushed out the target for the software until the first half of 2006. A test version of the software has also been delayed until next year.

Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said: "2006 is what we're predicting" for the final release. "It's conceivable it could slip further."

Entertainment center
For now, Microsoft is preparing a slew of new consumer products and services designed to spur sales of Windows XP, which debuted in October 2001.

The company is focused on making the PC more of an entertainment hub. Apple Computer has invigorated its own sales with its "digital hub" plan, and Windows-based PC makers are selling everything from plasma televisions to portable media devices. Hewlett-Packard, for example, is expected to soon unveil an HP-branded iPod.

For its part, Microsoft will soon announce its MSN Music download store and Windows Media Player 10, a new version of its jukebox software. The company also has been quietly preparing an update of Windows XP Media Center edition, an entertainment-themed version of the OS that allows consumers to watch videos and view pictures via a remote control.

Bill Gates Microsoft started testing the new version--code-named Symphony--early this year. The company has sent the finished software to computer makers, with a goal of having the new version of Media Center in PCs by October, according to a PC industry source. Microsoft declined to comment on the matter.

Besides enhancing the user interface, Microsoft is considering two steps aimed at making the Media Center edition of the operating more widely adopted: lowering the price it charges PC makers for the software and removing the requirement that it ship with a TV tuner, an industry source said.

All past Media Center-based PCs have included a TV tuner and promoted TiVo-like recording as a key feature. Making the TV-recording feature optional would allow PC makers to sell machines equipped with Media Center for less than $800--a price that could generate more demand.

The new version of Media Center will coincide with a marketing campaign called "Windows XP Reloaded," which promotes numerous products that are debuting this year as reasons to buy a Windows XP computer. These are expected to include Windows Media Player 10 and two peripherals tied to Media Center. One is the Portable Media Center, a handheld that plays music, pictures and recorded TV, downloaded from a PC. The other is a set-top box, known as Media Center Extender, that allows consumers to watch videos and TV shows in the bedroom while the Media Center PC is in the den.

Longhorn's long journey
Beyond sprucing up Windows XP with more advanced multimedia features, Microsoft has to complete a road map for Longhorn and decide what to do further with XP before the next major operating system update. Microsoft has already scaled back its Longhorn ambitions. In April, the company said it would trim Longhorn around the edges, hoping to allow the operating system to ship by 2006.

Other companies, such as Apple, have tried to update their operating systems with smaller, more frequent revisions. Apple has been averaging roughly one new release of the Mac OS X per year since the first version debuted in 2000. The latest edition, Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, shipped in October 2003, while "Tiger," with its improved search capabilities, is due out in the first half of next year.

With Longhorn, Microsoft has been planning three major changes to the way Windows works: a new file system known as WinFS, a new graphics and presentation engine known as Avalon, and a Web services and communication architecture dubbed Indigo.

Such a major overhaul is difficult for Microsoft, with its need to ensure compatibility with thousands of existing software programs, not to mention myriad peripherals and other devices. In the past, the company has had to scale back or scrap some ambitious efforts, such as the ill-fated Cairo release of Windows in the mid-1990s.

14 comments

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I say...
I say forget the people that insist on running the old software. For far too long Microsoft has done a dis-service to Windows and Windows users by constantly building in support for software and technology that has long ago past it prime. This is why it too so long to get rid of DOS and this is why so many version of Windows prior to XP were unstable and basically dogs.

It is time to say enough with the 10 year old technology lets move in to the future, those that don't want to make that jump know will be forced to soon enough otherwise their systems and software will rapidly become as useful as a Timex Sinclair.

I also have to express my dismay that it is taking so long to get the next version of Windows out. I am sure there is going to be many things like about it, but I am equally as sure that like Windows XP it will be far from secure.

Microsoft needs to do better on all fronts and that includes the time-table for major releases, and security. No other product on Earth has had to have as many updates as fixes for security as Windows. If it has been any other product or company they would have been out of business. I don't know why consumers and business continue to take it. We have the money that Microsoft wants, that puts us in control but for some reason we don't use that control. I guess that makes us idiots.

Robert
Posted by (336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
strange analysis
I too would like to ignore legacy systems, but many of Microsoft's customers would not agree. However, the decisions made by MS are at the request of their customers. Longhorn was pushed back because many customers prefered to stick with XP for longer. Yet they wanted XP to be more secure... thus SP2. Microsoft is doing a good job of delivering what the majority of their customers are looking for. The nagging problem is that no matter what they do, people will complain.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Innovation isn't adequate
As long as MS and Intel insist on overloading the Windows OS
and the X86 processor with all the elegacy requirements since
the DOS/8088 days, WinTel PC's are going to be second rate
computers.

Innovation, hell, we need a revolution. And if MS won't provide
it, Linux and others are more than ready to do so. It will take
time, but Windows will eventually strangle itself. And Intel is
more than ready to provide a new processor design to drive the
revolution.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
I say...Forget Microsoft
For far too long average users have put up with DOS and its
imperfections. Now, in the midst of raging virus attacks, system
reloads every few months, and a new service pack (SP2) with two
holes already found, they are being asked to wait another two
years for their problems to go away! And then, how can they be
sure Microsoft will deliver? Wasn't it >2 years ago that Gates
promised the Trustworthy Computing initiative? I haven't seen
much come out of that.

Drop DOS. Head to a UNIX-based OS, like Mac OS X or Linux. I
for one run a Mac, and have had a great time writing my Word
documents in the superior Office for Mac and enjoying not
having viruses and updates every week, with false promises of a
fixed OS. Not to mention OS X has far more features than XP (I
love Exposé) and looks a whole lot better.

Fortunately it seems some are beginning to understand that
Windows may be slowly committing suicide. Haven't you heard
of those many governments switching to Linux, or Maine, which
now has all-Mac laptops in the schools? Give up Windows; you
aren't slaves to Microsoft as much as you think.
Posted by iKenny (98 comments )
Link Flag
move in to the future
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/kia_bongo_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/kia_bongo_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
CNET didn't learn jack
MS mailed you people their latest PR blurb and thats what happened. Don't pretend to get scoops from MS. You get 'em fed.

You guys are really not known for good journalism.
Posted by chiwawa (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Chiwawa
I like your name.
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Link Flag
Feed the MS/Longhorn Propaganda Machine
In find it interesting that whenever MS speaks of Longshot Zdnet and C|Net dump it on their front page as if its major news. That even the smallest bit of info is a massive news story. Yet when someone else drops news its lucky to even get a blurb. Like how x.org is releasing a new version of their graphical subsystem next week.
Heres an idea! How about taking a pointer from arstechnica and interviewing the folks at freedesktop.org to get a bead at where they are and where they are going. But naa lets stick with a MS blurb that We are refocusing on Longshot Impressive guys.
To news.coms credit at least they wrote SOMETHING about 10.4 but ya know. Its a pretty good bet that that blurb we heard will be the ONLY thing that gets written about it. Vs. Longshot that will be, and is, written every month to keep the masses from losing interest. Its like dealing with a dumb dog that you need to keep his attention with a juicy bone or hes going to go wandering off. In this case wandering over to Linux or OS X.
Congratulations C|Net and ZDNet. Youve become MSs bone.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Link Flag
Redmond, we have a problem...
Micosoft monopoly empire is cracking under it's own weight &#38; ineptitude. Trying to service all of is numerous OS's out there, fixing all the numerous security holes in OS/IE/Outlook, as well as, devending it's monopoly in legal battles worldwide, is not a good thing for consumers.
First you hear, "hold on LONGHORN's acommin'", then it's "LONGHORN to the rescue. It will solve all that is wrong with MS", Then "LONGHORN will be the best thing out there &#38; far reaching into the future of Microsoft's vision."
NOW it's patch &#38; repair, get it out no matter what &#38; fix it later or "update" it later. Same old thing in a brand new box. Tell developers to wait, put out a GOLD version that is really a BETA version, then updates galore, then fix all the security holes &#38; crashing problems.
Welcome to your nightmare - Welcome to Microsoft.
Citizen Gates, you need Viagra. Microsoft has become just that MICRO AND SOFT.
Open Source/Linux/Unix/Java/Flash is the future &#38; Redmond is Jurassic Park.
- Eyes wide open in Seattle -
Posted by (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
your a spammer
you copy and paste too much
Posted by simcity1976 (136 comments )
Link Flag
Forget MS... time to switch to a Mac and OS X
I was a loyal Windows user for years, and finally got fed up with
virus', corrupt files, crashes, errors and the blue screen of death.
And, using my computer was BORING! Should it be? Well, check
out a Mac and you will never be bored again. Using a computer
is fun again! I love it. And yes, YOU CAN USE WINDOWS BASED
SOFTWARE ON A MAC. And do much more than you ever could
on a PC. Everything clicks on a Mac. Why wait for Longhorn
when you can have Mac OS X Panther (and the new Tiger in 05')
that runs circles around The "NEW" OS from Microsoft. While Bill
Gates waits to please the 90% of the people who are on their
PC's, those who use Mac's are doing much more than Windows
users ever will. Make the switch and never look at the computer
the same way again! From iLife... KeyNote... iMovie... iPhoto...
iDVD... Everything works better and works together! And all the
software suppliers to Mac users make sure it all works together
too. Better graphics, Unix based, ease of use, everything is just
awesome on a Mac. I am a believer! And I use many Windows
programs on it... They work. Make the switch today!
Posted by deanwaterman (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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