Microsoft hanging its hat on Longhorn server, client

Microsoft Corp. this week finally acknowledged that it was developing a server version of its Longhorn operating system and said the evolution of its next-generation enterprise software lineup would be integrated around both the client and server version of that operating system.

“Longhorn is the next generation; it’s a big bet for us,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect, at the company’s annual meeting with financial analysts. It’s the latest in a series of bets Microsoft has made. Gates said Microsoft was committing US$6.8 billion to research and development, an eight per cent increase over last year. The figure, however, includes employee stock compensation, which replaced the stock options program earlier this month.

“It’s clearly many years of work that we’re engaging in,” Gates said. “Longhorn is not just a release of the Windows client, it’s also a release where in the same time frame you’ll have advances in Office, our server products. Virtually everything at Microsoft is synchronized to build on this platform and take advantage of that.”

The synchronization means slippage in the development of any of the new software could mean delays in the entire platform. CEO Steve Ballmer, acknowledged that was a risk in the Longhorn integration efforts.

Gates said the company does not have a time frame for delivering on its efforts. He said some of the advancements related to Longhorn would come before the shipment of the operating system, which is planned for 2005. A beta is scheduled for next year.

The advancements, most of which have been announced, include a platform-wide management infrastructure, an integrated file system called WinFS, workflow that incorporates business process and employee interaction, business intelligence, user interface additions and the evolution of the .Net Web services platform code-named Indigo.

Gates offered one caveat, saying the linchpin is the company’s Trustworthy Computing program, which took a hit this month with the discovery of a critical vulnerability in Windows Server 2003. The operating system was the first developed under the initiative, which began in January 2001 to secure Microsoft’s source code.

“Trustworthy Computing, that’s a piece that we’ve got to get right or all the other advances won’t really matter,” Gates said.

The biggest advancement is the Longhorn server, which is needed to support the emerging management platform and the distributed WinFS file system.

Eric Rudder, senior vice president of the company’s server and tools business, laid out the product road map for this fiscal year, which began July 1. It includes many products already expected as follow-ons to Win 2003, including SharePoint Services and the newly re-named Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003, which was code-named Greenwich. Rudder also said Microsoft is developing an application called Audit Collection System.

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