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Let the (reopened) Longhorn date pools begin!

Will Microsoft really ship a major new version—something that’s more than just a service pack upgrade—of the Windows desktop next year?

Microsoft watchers have been guesstimating since well before the first Longhorn Professional Developer Conference (October 2003) when Microsoft’s XP successor would ship.

Starting in earnest last August, when Microsoft gutted Longhorn by exorcising the WinFS file system in order to get it out the door, speculation intensified, regarding whether or not Redmond could make good on its reset 2006 delivery target.

This week, Microsoft’s biggest Windows pooh-bah, group vice president Jim Allchin, stated for the record that Microsoft can and will deliver the final version of Longhorn to PC and software makers in time for them to package it up for “holiday 2006.” (As usual, all of Microsoft’s usual quality disclaimers apply: If the product is not solid, all ship promises are off.)

Allchin, who stumped for Longhorn this week on a cross-country press tour, told reporters that Microsoft is on track to ship the oft-delayed Longhorn next year.
The timetable:

  • April 2005: Preview/pre-beta release to OEMs and software vendors at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference.
  • Summer 2005 (Microsoft is saying early; we’re hearing July/August): Longhorn Beta 1 released to testers.
  • Late 2005 to mid-2006: Interim Longhorn builds (similar to the Community Technology Preview releases that Microsoft’s developer division has been delivering) go to testers
  • Some time in the first half of 2006: Beta 2 released
  • Q3/Q4 2006: Longhorn released to manufacturing and delivered to PC makers so they can preload it on new machines
  • Holiday season 2006: Longhorn hits retail.

    We told Allchin we were skeptical. Since when has Microsoft been able to deliver in little more than a year a new release of Windows (or even a Windows service pack, for that matter)? Was Longhorn in danger of becoming another Cairo, the object-oriented-file-system-rich version of Windows that disappeared with nary a trace?

    Read the full story on Microsoft Watch: Longhorn in 2006: Can Microsoft Really Pull This Off?