Customers expecting to move to Microsoft's next operating system as part of their new licensing agreement may be disappointed, analysts warn.
Microsoft's roadmap calls for the next release of Windows - codenamed 'Longhorn' - to appear in the second half of 2004. But Microsoft now wants to add more functionality to the release, and analysts are warning that this could delay the shipping date.
According to Giga Information Group analyst Rob Enderle, Microsoft has decided to switch Longhorn from a minor to a major release, which may eventually push the operating system's release date back one or two years.
Microsoft's problem is that it has sold Software Assurance to a number of companies, said Enderle. "This gives these companies rights to new products that are released during their contract. If no products are released these folks are going to be really upset," he said.
Customers signed up to the new Licensing 6.0 schedules are entitled to use any new software released during the period of the agreement. But there are no guarantees that any releases will be forthcoming, said Sue Page, group licensing manager at Microsoft UK.
"It is the right to utilise new versions that customers have signed up to. Microsoft was always very clear about this," she said.
The changes planned for Longhorn may persuade Microsoft to release an interim version of Windows to appease customers banking on getting a free upgrade, said Enderle. But the company is likely to be cagey about its plans, he warned.
Announcing this product now, Enderle said, could stall Windows XP deployments, which are well below expectations due to financial conditions. "So there is substantial pressure to both have an interim release and to deny the existence of that release at this time," Enderle said.
Despite the speculation, Microsoft said it would not ship an interim product.
Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said: "There are no plans to release a version of Windows before the next major release, which is codenamed Longhorn."
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