After Win2000, it's Whistler and Blackcomb

Windows 2000 is already history - at least for Microsoft's development team. They're working on the upgrades - Whistler in 2001 and Blackcomb in 2002

Microsoft wants all eyes on Windows 2000 when it officially rolls out the product next week. But its Windows development team already has moved on to work on the next two versions of Windows.

Microsoft is targeting March 2001 to deliver the first full upgrade to Windows 2000, code-named Whistler, according to sources close to the company. The follow-on to Whistler, code-named Blackcomb, is a 2002 or later Windows release.

Microsoft is looking to one of its executives' favourite retreat destinations, Whistler Resort in British Columbia, as the inspiration for its latest code name series. Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain are a few hours outside of Seattle.

Microsoft will officially roll out Windows 2000 on February 17 in San Francisco.

While Microsoft publicly acknowledged the Whistler code name in late January, company officials first told its Windows development team at the very start of January about plans to merge the Windows releases formerly code-named "Neptune" and "Odyssey" into Whistler, a single, NT-kernel-based release.

But Windows developers returning from their holidays after finally delivering to manufacturing Windows 2000 received an internal memo outlining their new marching orders: development of Whistler and Blackcomb, say sources close to the company.

Lengthy development and testing cycles -- like the four years it took Microsoft to complete NT 5.0/Windows 2000 -- were to become a thing of the past. According to the memo, say sources, developers have been charged with delivering a code-complete alpha release of Whistler by April, with a first public beta due in July. Microsoft already has delivered internally a number of internal builds of Whistler, say sources, and was at Build No. 2200 this week.

Microsoft plans to position the desktop version of Whistler as a superset of the consumer Windows release that Microsoft is calling Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) and that Microsoft is striving to ship in the latter half of 2000. Microsoft is expected to tout the Whistler desktop as the operating system it wants OEMs to preload on their Christmas 2001 PCs, say sources. The biggest difference between Whistler and Millennium is Millennium is still based on the current Win9X kernel.

Whistler also will exist in Server, Advanced Server and Datacenter versions. Whistler is likely to come in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavours, say sources.

While Whistler will be the first full-fledged upgrade to Windows 2000, it won't be the release upon which the company is betting its next-generation architecture. Microsoft's Next Generation Windows Services platform -- details of which the company is expected to make public in early May -- will rely on Blackcomb, not Whistler, as one of its key enabling products, say sources.

As Microsoft is still in the early stages of working on its Whistler feature list, it seems to have done little to concretize its planned Blackcomb lineup.

Microsoft officials said they would not comment on code names beyond Whistler. They also declined to comment on dates for any future versions of Windows, calling them "speculative."

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