Microsoft's next full-fledged version of the Windows operating system, codenamed Whistler, is at least a year away from release, but already a pirated version of one of the latest builds has found its way onto the Internet.
As reported by the Windows enthusiast sites ActiveWin and BetaNews, a recent internal build of Whistler has been posted illegally to a number of college and Internet sites. ActiveWin and BetaNews are reporting that Build 2211.1 was posted on Tuesday morning and "spread as per usual, like wildfire".
Whistler is the code name for the first full-fledged upgrade to Windows 2000 that will be based on the NT kernel, rather than the 9x kernel. (The Windows 9x update is codenamed Millennium, and expected to ship in the third or fourth quarter of this year.) Whistler is tentatively slated to ship in March 2001, according to internal Microsoft documents.
Microsoft won't comment on where Whistler is in the development process, but sources close to the company said the latest "stable" internal developers build is numbered 2207. The most recent internal test build is 2214, the sources added.
A Microsoft spokesman said the company was investigating reports of pirated Whistler builds, but would make no further comment.
As noted by ActiveWin, the pirated Whistler build looks almost identical to Windows 2000 Professional. "A number of people who installed the leaked build stated that there were a few HTML enhancements to folders, simplifying things for novice users," ActiveWin reported. "For example, the control panel is now by default an HTML interface, offering access to a few basic configuration options."
One change under the hood, according to ActiveWin, is the inclusion of the MarsCore.DLL file. "Mars" is the code name for user interface technology slated to be included in a future version of Microsoft's MSN client. At one point, Mars was used as the code name for the next version of a consumer-oriented version of Internet Explorer. After signing up Mars beta testers last autumn, Microsoft sent out a note telling them that it had delayed the start of the beta because the company was "rethinking some of our most basic assumptions" regarding the future of user interfaces.
It isn't just in the user interface that Microsoft has been redrawing its Windows roadmap, however. In January, the company acknowledged that it had tabled work on "Neptune", a consumer version of Windows slated to follow Millennium, and on "Odyssey", an NT-kernel-based follow-on to Windows 2000. Instead, Microsoft said, it planned to merge the Neptune and Odyssey code bases in the form of Whistler.
The follow-on to Whistler, codenamed Blackcomb, is expected to ship in 2002 or later.
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