Microsoft delays release of .Net Server OS

Microsoft Corp. this week announced that the release of its new Windows .Net Server operating system is being delayed until the second half of the year – the same timeframe when the first service pack of updates and fixes for Microsoft’s Windows XP desktop operating system is set to be released.

The most recent target release date for Windows .Net Server had been the first half of the year.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company’s new “trustworthy computing” initiative – which calls for all software to be reviewed for security vulnerabilities – may cause modifications and additions to engineering processes, potentially leading to longer delivery schedules but “higher quality” in the long term.

But Tom Bittman, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said the increased focus on security isn’t the only reason for the delay. Bittman, who noted that he recently visited the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash., said the software maker is trying to solidify the design of the .Net architecture and kill any bugs that are found.

“It’s not as easy as they were hoping, and I think they’re trying to do it right,” he said.

The new projected ship date for Windows .Net Server means there will be a separation of at least nine months from the release of the Windows XP desktop operating system, which launched Oct. 25. Both operating systems are based on the same source code.

“Clearly, they’re going to still try to maintain a common code base, but the more that you separate, the more you have dual development issues,” Bittman said. “For example, if they find a bug in XP right now, they also have to fix that in the libraries being developed for Windows .Net Server.”

Since corporate users typically wait for the first service pack of new Microsoft operating systems, the Windows .Net Server delay would push implementation into 2003 at the earliest. Such service packs include all the security patches and critical updates since the product’s launch.

Bittman said Gartner is advising clients that there’s no need to wait for the service pack with Windows .Net Server due to the incremental nature of most of the changes. “I think the way to see this is Windows 2000 was NT 5 and .Net Server is NT 5.1,” he said.

Corporate users may be more inclined to wait for the service pack with Windows XP, since few have rushed to deploy the new desktop operating system on a company-wide basis.

In addition to the usual bug fixes and security patches, the first service pack for Windows XP also will incorporate any operating system changes called for under the consent decree that Microsoft reached with the U.S. Department of Justice in its antitrust fight, a Microsoft spokeswoman said. She declined to provide further details.

The Windows XP service pack will also include enabling technologies for Tablet PCs, which are due out next fall, and consumer-oriented features to help users access music, videos and photographs.

“This is business as usual – the typical rollout for service packs following a product launch,” the Microsoft spokeswoman said.