While Microsoft execs have declared the OS is due out before mid 2006, the catalogue of delays that held up XP SP2's release have provoked a degree of skepticism about the roadmap among users. But Cynthia Crossley, head of Windows client at Microsoft UK, said the Redmond behemoth's hardware partners are cracking the whip to keep the company on the straight and narrow timeline, with the box-shifters demanding the OS be ready for the consumer spending that accompanies the September start of term and Christmas.
The first beta will be available in summer 2005, with a second beta scheduled to be released in autumn. The final complete release should be in out in the second quarter of 2006.
However, the development process was already delayed when security developers were pulled off working on Longhorn to contribute to XP SP2.
"It's the internal culture--anything to do with security, we get it out the door as soon as possible. The more pain the customer feels, the worse it is for us," Crossley told silicon.com. It's a rationale that Microsoft has already put into effect when it recently announced the news that IE7 will debut before Longhorn. While Microsoft is keeping quiet on what's in the box, Crossley said the three of the main pillars of the next-gen OS will be mobility, application compatibility and security.
With Apple's own next-gen OS, Tiger, widely expected to debut this month--almost a year before Longhorn's scheduled release--Apple execs have hinted they expect to be copycatted by Redmond rival.
Crossley said she expected technological crossovers but denied they would be deliberate.
"We do a load of research into what people want and funnily enough so does Apple--it's not hard to work it out... Will I be surprised if there are similarities? No."
And despite reports to the contrary, Crossley said Redmond has seen no halo effect from iPod users shunning PCs in favor of Macs.
"We haven't seen it yet," she said.
"We're not happy about losing any market share," Crossley said. "We worry less about 'losing share' and more about what else we can get into... we want to do it all."
As well as fighting the advents of other OSes, Microsoft has had a number of run-ins with antitrust authorities around the world, including the EU competition commission and the US Department of Justice.
Crossley said the ongoing battles wouldn't affect Longhorn's development. "For the last X number of years, we've been really internally reticent with the DOJ stuff, even before there were any questions with the EU. What we're saying now, there's a difference between being respectful and being kind of wimpy. We should hold our heads up high about what we do."