Ballmer: Longhorn is 'disruptive - but worth it'

Ballmer: Longhorn is 'disruptive - but worth it'

Summary: Microsoft's chief executive has declined to give a firm release date for the next version of Windows, in order to avoid disappointing customers and partners

Speaking at the company's annual partner conference in Toronto on Tuesday, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer argued that promising a delivery date for Longhorn that the company couldn't actually hit would be unfair for customers and partners and would make the whole Windows upgrade cycle even more painful.

"We are going to be as transparent as we can be, but we are not promising a final ship date today," he said.

Microsoft has been persistently vague on when the various server and desktop versions of Longhorn will ship, with the year 2007 the most precise estimate so far. Speaking at the conference earlier this week, Paul Flessner, senior vice president of Microsoft's Server Platform Division, also refused to be drawn on an exact release date.

Ballmer confirmed earlier rumours that the delays to the release of the latest update to Windows XP, Service Pack 2 (SP2), had an impact on the schedule for Longhorn, conceding that, "SP2 didn't help the Longhorn schedule," he said.

SP2 was due to ship this month, but earlier this week Microsoft confirmed that the release to manufacturing date had been pushed back to August. This is the second time that Microsoft has delayed SP2, which was originally expected in June. Earlier this year, Microsoft said that the update would be delayed until this month.

The company gave no reasons for most recent delay. Last month, a number of Windows enthusiast Web sites reported that Microsoft had run into compatibility problems between SP2 and other software.

The Microsoft chief was in as vociferous form as ever at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner conference in Toronto, but held off from the stage-dancing that has characterised some of his previous performances, limiting his movements to an aggressive combination of air-punching and fist-clenching.

Ballmer said Longhorn represents a large "step function" in invention which would be disruptive for companies and partners, but that periods of intense innovation, followed by incremental improvements, were the nature of the software industry.

"The software industry is lumpy," he said. "These kinds of step functions are disruptive but the day we ignore them is the day someone else is going to invest in the step functions."

Ballmer told the audience of partners and independent software developers that the disruption around Longhorn would be worth it as Microsoft is attempting to "enable a new wave of applications" with the release.

"I would encourage you not to miss this wave," he said.

He admitted that the company has work to do when it comes to its product road map. "We are not that good at scheduling. We are not as bad as some but we are not as good as others should be."

Topic: Operating Systems

Andrew Donoghue

About Andrew Donoghue

"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."

Hunter S. Thompson

Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journalist with over ten years on leading titles such as Computing, SC Magazine, BusinessGreen and

Specialising in sustainable IT and technology in the developing world, he has reported and volunteered on African aid projects, as well as working with charitable organisations such as the UN Foundation and Computer Aid.

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  • Isn't the fact that migration to Linux is disruptive one of the arguments Microsoft uses against Linux?

    So why is Longhorn different?

    Why will it be so expensive?

    Why should I care? I use Linux, it is cheap, secure and far more user friendly (to me anyway) than Windows. I actually want to know what goes on behind the Wizards...
  • microsoft would argue that windows is more user friendly since you "don't need to know what goes on behind the wizards" - yeh right, and my winkie's a banjo
  • If you move to Linux you can't run MS Office and no IT Director who wants to keep his job is going to ditch the productivity tool that all his employees and senior execs are familiar with, or the tool that all the suppliers, partners and competitors are using.

    As soon as a senior exec finds he can't do something on OpenOffice that he/she can do in MS Office its game over for whoever suggested the move, no matter how much it saves in licensing costs.

    Linux will never make it onto the desktop in buisiness.
  • Ever heard of Crossover Office? Or WINE?

    Open Office and Star Office are 90+% compatible with MS Office, just a hell of a lot cheaper! The 10% that isn't compatible is only used by 10% of the users anyway.

    What version of MS Office lets you convert your document to pdf or Flash? What version of Office saves in XML format that can be read by non-Microsoft software?
  • Open Office/Star Office and the Linux desktop will struggle head on with Microsofts multimedia desktop and office applications. But if the requirement for a user is to use a word processor/spreadsheet etc, internet access then as an IT professional it would be foolish to discount the movements made in the Linux arena. Both have their own spaces and should be implemented according to what the requirement is and what best fits.
    I feel the Linux desktop will gain credability but not before 2006.
    Also with Ballmers comments about Longhorn being disruptive, again the IT professional needs to understand exactly why and then assess if Microsoft or a Linux infrastructure is required taking into account TCO and ROI.
  • >>Open Office and Star Office are 90+% compatible with MS Office, just a hell of a lot cheaper! The 10% that isn't compatible is only used by 10% of the users anyway.

    WordPerfect Office and Lotus Smart Suite are (or were) 90% compatible and much cheaper, but (almost) no businesses use those either.

    MS Office has become a standard - new staff can enter a company and get to grips with email/documents/spreadsheets without needing additional training. The cost of training and supporting users on unfamiliar systems, plus the loss of productivity while they learn is more than the cost of the software.

    What do you do with the 10% of users who have lost a vital feature? As this is one of the more obscure features, it is probably one that results in large savings of time. Do you leave them with MS Office and incur the headache of supporting two systems? Or take MS Office away and make them do it the hard way?

    I don't think companies want to be seen as 'cheap' on IT (efficient/competitive but not cheap). If anything goes wrong it will be blamed on 'cheapness'. If you can't collaborate with a partner/supplier/customer because you run a 'cheap' office suite, they will regard you as a 'cheap' company.

    >>What version of MS Office lets you convert your document to pdf or Flash? What version of Office saves in XML format that can be read by non-Microsoft software?

    MS Office may not be better (though it is, and you can easily install a pdf printer drive and convert any office document to pdf) - that is not my point. No matter how much better/cheaper the alternative, business is not going to move away from MS Office. IT departments are loathe enough to roll out new versions of MS Office (in case there are training or compatibility issues), even though they already 'own' them (due to the lisencing changes MS pushed through).
  • if you dont know whats going on behind the wizards you have only yourself to blame. MS gives you mutliple ways to do just about everything and if you would rather not use the wizard - so be it.

    It is amazing how little consideration the linux advocates give to the business that is using the technology.
  • Longhorn will give up the only reason people could have for staying with Windows - application compatability. It effectively puts itself in the same position as GNU/Linux systems in that regard -- in fact, possibly worse as we already have WINE.

    The first apps to be ported will no doubt be MS ones. The old ones won't work, so if you want to stay with MS Office, you'll have to upgrade for that reason (along with the Longhorn upgrade). And, even by then, I bet they won't have added any decent features to it (like they haven't since the days of Win 3.1). Word still sucks on graphic inclusion even now, just as it did with version 6.0. And there still isn't a PDF export, etc. But, hey, at least Clippy will work under Longhorn -- you'll just need a supercomputer to run it...
  • MS Office has been thoroughly tested under Wine. Running Linux does not mean giving up Office.