Mary Jo Foley has has uncovered an interesting trend up in Redmond: contradiction when it comes to Windows. It seems that the Longhorn team has seven versions on tap, but the company as a whole is paring back Windows versions, folding Home, Pro and others into one SKU. Microsoft is sending mixed signals as to whether it will field more or fewer Windows releases; but she bets there are more, more, more.
The Windows team likes to pride itself on holding its cards close to the vest. But sometimes, that strategy backfires, as it did this week on the Longhorn front.
Microsoft execs have been making a concerted effort not to talk publicly about Longhorn. But that hasn’t stopped others from doing so. And this week, there were lots of conflicting Longhorn leaks:
- Microsoft has at least seven Longhorn variants on the drawing board, including new small-business and an “uber” Windows variant, according to one Windows-watching site. (There’s no Windows Longhorn Reduced Media Edition on the list, but Microsoft’s still in denial about that one.)
- Microsoft is paring back the number of Windows releases and is folding the Home, Professional, Tablet and Windows Media Center releases into one single Longhorn SKU, according to another reporter.
- Microsoft is readying the next two Windows Media Center releases and doesn’t seem to have plans to fold any of the Media Center functionality into other Longhorn SKUs at all, according to a third site.
So, which of these, if any, is true? The Windows client team won’t say. Officials are clinging to the tired line that “it’s too early to talk yet about packaging plans for Longhorn.” But wouldn’t you like to hear more about good old Windows XP instead?
Our sources say that the truth lies at the intersection of all of these reports. We hear Microsoft is thinking about more Windows releases, not fewer — the same way that the Office team and the Visual Studio teams are thinking about ways to broaden their products’ appeal by rolling out more variants.
The “uber” Longhorn release mentioned above — that allegedly will include all of the features of the includes all of the features from the Home, Premium, Pro, Small Business, and Tablet PC Editions — is Microsoft’s trial balloon, our tipsters say.
Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it is highly likely to add more of its Tablet PC operating system features to the base Windows platform, going forward. And it’s leaning toward doing the same with Media Center.
In fact, the core Windows team is constantly re-examining which features from these two SKUs (Tablet and Media Center) Microsoft should fold into the base-level platform. If a certain market heats up sooner than Microsoft might have anticipated (say, digital photography), Microsoft will be more likely to incorporate Media Center’s digital-photo-handling functionality into the core Windows platform, the Windows client team has said.
At this point in the cycle, Microsoft should have a pretty good idea of what Longhorn will look like, at least if the company is still expecting to ship the final Longhorn product(s) next year. (Our sources say 2006 is still the due date, most likely Q3.) We’re not optimistic we’ll see a Longhorn beta much before the Professional Developers Conference in October, but maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised.