Next .NET will take longer

This article was originally published in VSJ, which is now part of Developer Fusion.
Microsoft has announced that the next version of Windows, codenamed ‘Longhorn’, will be delayed until some time in 2006, and the server version until some time in 2007. Microsoft is also said to be reconsidering the release dates for a number of other major projects.

Although originally slated for release at the end of 2004, then delayed to early 2005, it now looks as if Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 will be released no sooner than the middle of 2005.

There are no obvious reasons for the delay of Visual Studio 2005, although the need to integrate with SQL Server 2005 might account for the problem. The overhaul to SQL Server 2005 is generally considered to be major, and developer facilities are central.

Initial reactions to the delay reflect an appreciation that Microsoft is taking its responsibilities to “get it right” seriously. However, there are financial implications to the delay. Under Microsoft’s licensing programs, customers can choose to get free product upgrades during a two- or three-year window rather than buy a new licence when new products come out. In the case of SQL Server 2000/7, support is to be phased out at the end of 2005, and this leaves little overlap between the existing and new products.

Microsoft has also confirmed that Longhorn will drop features in order to meet the release date. The WinFX subsystem that includes the Avalon graphics system is going to be released separately. Avalon provides XML-based technology that allows Windows forms to be created in the same way as Web forms. Also part of WinFX is the Indigo communications system. A beta is scheduled to be released at about the same time as the Longhorn client operating system. The good news is that WinFX is going to be made available as a retrofit download to Windows XP and 2003, so widening the user base for applications that make use of it.

Also dropped from Longhorn is the WinFS advanced filing system, which is intended to bring SQL database technology to every application. This too will be made available as a separate module, but it isn’t clear as yet if this will work with Windows XP/2003.

‘Orcas’, the next version of Visual Studio after the 2005 release, is intended to ship around the same time as Longhorn, so 2006 at the earliest.

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