Microsoft claims it is on track to ship Whistler, the next version of its Windows operating system, next year despite influential analyst opinion that the release date is likely to slip.
The assurance by Jim Ewel, vice president of infrastructure at Microsoft, comes as the copies of the first beta of Whistler are arriving through the letterboxes of key hardware partners and 200,000 software developers. Microsoft wants feedback and to allow hardware and software vendors to ready themselves for Whistler.
Speaking in London today, Ewel said that professional and personal client versions of the operating system would be available in the second half of next year, with embedded NT and server versions following between two to three months later.
Last month, analysts Gartner said that the shipment of Whistler was likely to slip into 2002, and that the release would lack significant improvements in enterprise functionality, with the focus being to move consumers onto the same code base as business users and to revamp the user interface.
While admitting that Whistler was an "incremental" release rather than a major release for server products, Ewel was keen to tout improvements in manageability, reliability and ease of deployment, as Microsoft pitches it as an attractive upgrade for Windows 2000 users.
"With Whistler, Microsoft is offering users incremental improvements that resolve deployment obstacles, improve manageability and add support for Itanium [Intel's forthcoming microprocessor chip]," said Ewel, who added that the operating system would support some .Net technologies but would not be "the be all and end all Nirvana".
Key features, some of which are not yet included in beta 1 code, include faster and more flexible directory deployments and enhanced backup and recovery.
On manageability, Whistler will for the first time include features that provide so-called 'headless' management, which will allow remote unattended management of Windows servers.
Responding to concerns arising from the damage caused by the Love Bug, Ewel promised a "safer" Windows, which will include a group policy mechanism so that administrators can specify whether or not visual basic scripts and executable files can run on systems.
The beta release is available as a 32bit operating system, with 64bit for early evaluators of Intel's 64bit Itanium chip for Professional, Server and Advanced Server editions.
Whistler Personal edition, targeted at the consumer market as a follow up to Windows Me, is promised to be far more reliable and to have better support for digital media, such as DVDs, than previous consumer editions of Microsoft's operating system.
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