Microsoft will forego its plans to keep client and server operating system (OS) releases synchronized. Microsoft will offer the next version of Windows, code-named "Longhorn," only as a client release.
On 12 November 2002, Microsoft announced that the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, will be a client-only release. The next server version will be based on "Blackcomb," the follow-on to Longhorn.
It makes sense for Microsoft to skip a server release:
The delay in shipping the "Whistler" version of the server, now known as Windows .NET Server 2003. Microsoft says that Windows .NET Server 2003 will be available in April 2003.
The reluctance of enterprises to absorb frequent server releases.
The desire to avoid delaying a follow-on client release to Windows XP.
On the other hand, Microsoft will face pressure to deliver some server functions before Blackcomb. Because of the code lockdown during Microsoft's security review, some scheduled changes did not make it into the Windows .NET Server 2003 release, and Microsoft can't wait another three years for Blackcomb — expected in 2006 or 1H07 (0.7 probability) — to provide them. Therefore, we expect some server enhancements to ship before Blackcomb as optional “server function packs” or limited editions (0.7 probability).
The elimination of the Longhorn server release means that few enterprises using Windows 2000 will be able to skip Windows .NET Server 2003. Support for Windows 2000 Server will move to the "extended phase" (for-fee fixes only) starting in April 2005 — well before Blackcomb will be delivered (see "Microsoft Support Guarantee Should Help With Server Planning" ). Regardless, enterprises should plan for the migration to Blackcomb as a major upgrade.
Eliminating the Longhorn server release may make it easier for Microsoft to ship the client release sooner, but we still believe the Longhorn client will be generally available in 2H04 or 1H05 (0.8 probability), three or more years after Windows XP. This delay creates a huge revenue gap for Microsoft and perhaps for PC hardware original equipment manufacturers that rely on new Windows versions to generate excitement in the consumer market. On the client, we expect an enhancement pack, at least for consumers, by year-end 2003 (0.6 probability). We do not believe Microsoft will deliver an interim release for the enterprise unless it officially pushes back Longhorn's release into 2005; in that case, Microsoft could deliver an interim client release for both consumers and enterprises in 2003 (0.3 probability).
Analytical Sources: Michael Silver, John Enck and Thomas Bittman, Gartner Research
Recommended Reading and Related Research
"Don't Worry About Which OSs Will Support Office 11" — Microsoft's decision to support Office 11 only on Windows 2000 and XP operating systems should prompt enterprises to ensure that they have a plan to eliminate legacy client OSs. By Michael Silver
"Microsoft Bows to Customer Pressure, Extends OS Support" — Enterprises will still find it hard to skip packaged releases of Windows, but Microsoft's new, extended support plan is good news. By Michael Silver
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