Microsoft Corp. announced yesterday that it will leave out some planned features from its next major operating system to meet a goal of rolling out a new version of Windows in the second half of 2006.
Microsoft has long said it is working on a follow-up to the Windows XP operating system, though the software maker had not specified when the operating system, code-named "Longhorn," would be completed.
Brad Goldberg, general manager for a Windows division at Microsoft, said the company decided to make the announcement as a result of feedback from its customers, who have asked for more advance notice of Microsoft's plans for its operating systems.
Goldberg tied the timing of the Longhorn announcement to the release this month of Service Pack 2, a wide-ranging security update for Windows XP. "Having just come off the release, it was a natural time to look at schedules," he said.
One key feature of Longhorn that is delayed is a new data organization tool called WinFS, intended to change how Windows users view, search and store files on their computers. The company says that Longhorn will come with a test, or beta, version of WinFS; the finished version will be released separately, at some unspecified time after the initial Longhorn rollout.
"It is somewhat disappointing because [Microsoft Chairman] Bill Gates had talked about a lot of improvements in the file system, and they sounded exciting," said Michael Cherry, analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a research firm that tracks the software maker.
"But in software development, at some point you sort of have to decide when you're going to get the software done," he said. "Microsoft has decided that it is important for their customers to have a Longhorn product in 2006."
Roger Kay, an analyst at research firm IDC, was less sympathetic. "This amounts to a delay, because if they deliver it without the file system that was part of the original [specification], then they're only able to meet their deadline by de-featuring the product."
Though Microsoft hasn't officially announced a release date, industry analysts were expecting to see the updated operating system on store shelves as early as next year, he said. "They have reset expectations several times."
Other features in the upcoming operating system, Microsoft says, will change the way applications work, so that they interfere with each other less. The new software also will feature improved graphics and search capabilities, according to the company.