Microsoft mulls extra Windows release before Longhorn

Microsoft Corp. is pondering ways to add functionality to Windows XP after the release of Service Pack 2 later this year. The discussions, under the project name Windows XP Reloaded, could result in an interim release of Windows before Longhorn.

Such a release would represent a strategy change for Microsoft, but not an entirely unexpected one. Analysts at Gartner Inc. have predicted that Microsoft would offer an interim release of Windows in order to placate customers who signed up for its Software Assurance licensing program, which provides three-year contracts for software maintenance and upgrades.

Microsoft is weighing its options to deliver updates to Windows XP, but it is too early to draw any conclusions, Greg Sullivan, lead product manager for Windows at Microsoft, said Thursday.

“We’re looking at what our options are in terms of delivering what our development team creates in terms of new technologies to our customers,” Sullivan said. “This is not an announcement of a second edition of Windows XP. There is a range of options.”

Microsoft has said repeatedly that it has no plans for an interim Windows release to fill the gap between Windows XP, which appeared in late 2001, and Longhorn, the code name for a major new operating system release expected in about 2006. “That is still true,” Sullivan said. “We’re currently exploring our options.”

Microsoft may not have decided how it will package further updates to Windows XP, but it has come up with a name for its discussions about those updates: Windows XP Reloaded. “The term Windows XP Reloaded refers to current thinking about the ways we can add value to Windows XP,” Sullivan said. “To say that it is an interim release is premature.”

While Sullivan maintains that Microsoft has no plans for an interim Windows release, one publication on Thursday reported the opposite. Windows & .Net Magazine, citing sources, reported that the interim XP version will ship as a new retail product that replaces current Windows XP boxes and be offered as an update to current users.

The interim Windows release would include all features of Windows XP Service Pack 2 and a host of other updates, including a new Windows Media Player, according to the report.

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