Delivery dates set for next Windows

Microsoft has set internal delivery timetables and design goals for its next-generation Windows release, codenamed Whistler

The product: Microsoft's Whistler, a Windows 2000 successor. The goal: to go gold on 18 April. The prognosis?

Possible, but unlikely, given Microsoft's history of problems with hitting delivery dates, as well as the spotty quality of the release of Build 2257, the latest alpha release to find its way into the hands of testers outside Microsoft.

As Microsoft continues to sign up beta testers for its next-generation Windows product, it is updating its self-imposed delivery timetables and design points. If all goes according to plan from here on out, Microsoft is planning an 11 October Beta 1 release, a 6 December Beta 2 due date and an 18 April release-to-manufacturing date for Whistler, according to sources who claimed to have seen a copies of internal timetables.

All Microsoft is saying publicly at this point is that it intends to release Beta 1 in October and ship the final Whistler product in the second half of 2001.

According to an internal Microsoft e-mail message dated 1 January, 2000 and viewed by ZDNet News, Microsoft's delivery timetable has lengthened modestly since the start of the year. In January, Microsoft was aiming to deliver Whistler Beta 1 in July, Beta 2 in mid-October, and the gold code on 1 February, 2001.

Whistler is not meant to be a particularly ambitious successor to Windows 2000, a fact that Microsoft itself has acknowledged in some internal and external presentations, sources said.

Whistler is designed to show off some of the preliminary user-interface work that Microsoft is doing under the guise of its .Net strategy. But most of Microsoft's .Net Windows enhancements won't debut until the company ships Whistler's successor, codenamed Blackcomb, which is currently expected in the latter half of 2002.

The primary goals for Whistler -- which will come in a variety of consumer and business flavours, in both 32 and 64-bit packages -- include providing customers with incremental benefits in usability, reliability and deployment.

According to sources claiming familiarity with the design goals set by the Whistler Core OS team, improvements in the so-called out-of-the-box experience will focus around simplifying the user interface and maintaining parity with the recently released Windows Millennium Edition, in terms of boot times.

On the user interface front, Microsoft will continue to make improvements in its wizard help feature, and will more tightly integrate the Whistler user interface with Microsoft's Windows Update feature, which the company uses to give customers access to the latest fixes, patches and information via the Web.

Within the guts of the Whistler OS, Microsoft is aiming to reduce the number of so-called "deployment blockers", sources said, by honing features such as remote, server-based installation; automated system recovery; and file-system volume snapshots, aimed at providing specified "point-in-time" backups.

To support 64-bit hardware, Microsoft is adding technology (which may or may not be an emulator) called WOW64 to the operating system, so that users will be able to better run 32-bit Windows applications on top of systems running the Win64 application programming interface.

Microsoft also is attempting to add scalability to its high-end Whistler offerings to take the operating system beyond the four CPU/8 GB RAM limitations imposed by Windows 2000 Datacenter Server.

Also on the hardware support front, Microsoft is planning to ensure compatibility between Whistler and various new devices and standards, added sources.

Microsoft's goal is to provide CD-Recordable and CD-ReWritable drive format compatibility, 100 MB per second ATA100 disk drive, and Universal Serial Bus and 1394 peripheral support with the release.

Another of the company's aims is to ensure that "well-written" Windows 2000 drivers will run on Whistler without modification, sources said.

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