It's not Longhorn anymore. Microsoft today announced that Windows Vista will be the official name of the next version of its flagship operating system, and that beta 1 of the OS will arrive by 3 August. The operating system, due out in 2006, will now be known as Windows Vista with the tag line "Bringing clarity to your world." Apple's next version of Mac OS X, 10.5 Leopard, is due to launch around the same time.

The announcement was made Thursday afternoon at a briefing in Atlanta to some 10,000 Microsoft sales and service employees and then revealed this morning via a video posted on Microsoft's Web site.

"So there's no more Longhorn, we're now officially Windows Vista," Brian Valentine, senior vice president of Windows Core Operating System told the cheering crowd.

Why Windows Vista? Greg Sullivan, group product manager in the Windows client division, said Microsoft had received good feedback when it abandoned numeric names based, first, on release numbers (e.g., Windows 3.1) and then release dates such as Windows 95 in favor of Windows XP, "a moniker that tried to express something about the product itself."

More stuff

The key goal of Longhorn, Sullivan added, was to deal with a world in which "there's just more and more stuff. We really turn to our PCs to help manage this 'more,' and we need a system that helps bring clarity to us."

"That's what Windows Vista is about, bringing clarity to the world so you can focus on what matters to you."

Sullivan noted that beta 1, when it arrives in the next couple of weeks, will only be distributed in the development and IT community and not to the public at large.

"Beta 1 is almost exclusively a plumbing release. Our view that the end user functionality is not in beta 1, it's in beta 2. The true essence of the product that's going to reflect the name as well is going to be in beta 2," Sullivan said.