The first beta test version of Microsoft's next major Windows client release, code-named Longhorn, probably won't be available until the second half of next year, another delay for the much-anticipated beta.
Microsoft had scheduled the beta for 2004, but earlier this year said its release would slip into early 2005. The company is adjusting timing for the test version again because of all the work it had to do, and still is doing, on security, especially Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP, people familiar with Microsoft's product plans said.
"I don't think you will see the beta in the first half," one of the sources said. "SP2 has been a very big deal."
The first delay of the Longhorn beta also was attributed to work on SP2. Many developers working on Longhorn had been reassigned to work on the security-focused service pack for Windows XP, which is due out next month, Microsoft has said. The work on SP2 and the focus on security essentially set a higher quality bar at Microsoft, the sources said.
The beta will be released ahead of a second Longhorn-focused Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC), which the company is planning for the third or fourth quarter of 2005, the sources said.
Microsoft does plan to continue distributing technical preview releases of Longhorn ahead of the beta, the sources said. The company has already distributed previews at PDC and the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) last May.
A later beta could also mean a delay for the final product, which is currently expected to be released in 2006. A beta period for Microsoft products typically lasts at least 18 months, but for a major release such as Longhorn the testing period may be extended, as it was for Windows Server 2003.
Longhorn is a major release, a "big bet" for Microsoft, chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates said last year. Gates has described Longhorn as a "big breakthrough release" and the most significant release of Windows since Windows 95. Longhorn succeeds Windows XP, which was released in late 2001.
Longhorn had its debut at the first Longhorn PDC last October in Los Angeles. It was the first time Microsoft talked publicly about many of the features it plans for the operating system.