Gates: Longhorn to come with server and Office updates

Microsoft Corp. is preparing Office and server products to accompany the launch of Longhorn, the successor to Windows XP, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said Thursday, reigniting speculation about a server version of Longhorn.

"Longhorn is not just a release of a Windows client," Gates said in a meeting with financial analysts at Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, headquarters. Longhorn is a "big bet" for Microsoft and the company at the same time will have "advances in Office and server" products, Gates said.

Microsoft Senior Vice President Eric Rudder in a slide showing the future of servers mentioned "Windows Server Longhorn." Rudder recently added Windows Server to the list of Microsoft units he heads up.

Gates' comments and Rudder's presentation renew speculation about a server version of Longhorn, which Microsoft has at several times said will be a client-only release, but has also suggested may be released in a server version.

Gates did not give a timeframe for Longhorn, but Microsoft at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in May set 2005 as the year for Longhorn.

Microsoft in April released Windows Server 2003 and is planning to release Office 2003 later this year. With Longhorn planned for 2005, it could mean that Windows Server 2003 and Office 2003 will be outdated in two years, an upgrade cycle that is shorter than Microsoft's typical three-year cycle.

"We have not set a rate on a next server release, but we hit about every three years. Longhorn is in the same zone as the three years," said Bob O’Brien, group product manager in Microsoft's Windows Server division in an interview ahead of the financial analyst meeting on Wednesday.

Two industry analysts attending the Thursday meeting were divided on what Gates' comments mean.

"I think Microsoft will have to at least refresh Windows Server 2003 when it releases Longhorn," said Rob Helm, research director at Directions on Microsoft Inc., an independent research firm in Kirkland, Washington.

Joe Wilcox, a Washington, D.C.-based Jupiter Research senior analyst, on his firm's Microsoft Monitor log said a server release of Longhorn is a possibility, however "I wouldn't place any bets yet. Microsoft is still early in its Longhorn plans, and roadmaps are by no means final."

Not only do the roadmaps not appear final, questions remain about the technology underlying Longhorn. "We're doing a new file system which is called next-generation Windows, or WinFS," Gates said about Longhorn. At WinHEC, however, Microsoft officials said WinFS is not a new file system, but a storage technology that is built on the existing NTFS file system.

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