Microsoft is investigating reports that the code for the next version of Windows has been leaked onto the internet.
Computer code for an early version of the next consumer release of the Windows system, codenamed Whistler, found its way onto several websites earlier this week, according to Windows enthusiast site ActiveWin.
Whistler is the codename for the first fully-fledged upgrade to Windows 2000. It will be based on the Windows NT kernel, rather than the Windows 9x kernel. The next Windows 9x update, codenamed Millennium, is expected to ship in the third or fourth quarter of this year.
Clive Longbottom, an analyst at Strategy Partners, said Microsoft should treat any leak as an opportunity to develop better code, by letting outside developers look at it.
"Microsoft is working with a lot of developers, so it isn't that surprising that code was leaked. If you get a lot of open source people looking at Microsoft's code, some will dismiss it but other will raise issues," he said.
Whistler is at least one year away from release, so any posting of a pirate version of one of the latest builds on a number of college and internet sites is doubly embarrassing for Microsoft.
ActiveWin and BetaNews report that Build 2211.1 of Whistler was posted Tuesday morning and "spread as per usual, like wildfire".
According to postings on the ActiveWin site, the pirate Whistler build looks almost identical to Windows 2000 Professional.
"A number of people who installed the leaked build stated there were a few HTML enhancements to folders, simplifying things for novice users," said ActiveWin. "For example, the control panel is now by default an HTML interface, offering access to a few basic configuration options."
A Microsoft spokesman confirmed that the software giant is looking into reports of a possible leak.
Other features include a future version of a Microsoft Network (MSN) client and tighter integration between the operating system and the browser.
In January, Microsoft said it had dropped work on Neptune - a consumer version of Windows slated to follow Millennium - and also on Odyssey, an NT kernel-based follow-on to Windows 2000. Instead, the software giant said it planned to merge the Neptune and Odyssey code bases in the form of Whistler.
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