Microsoft pushes back Longhorn server beta

Windows users who are anxious to get their hands on the first beta release of the Longhorn server will have to wait a bit longer than expected.

Earlier this year, Microsoft projected that the initial beta of the server version of Longhorn would emerge in the first half of next year. But now the company is saying that the beta code is due in the second half of 2005.

"We feel good about that date, and we'll drive forward to that beta process," Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server division, said this month. "We clearly have more clarity on Longhorn beta dates (now)."

In the meantime, Microsoft this month made available "release candidate" versions of Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and a companion release of SP1 targeted specifically at systems based on Intel's 64-bit Itanium processors. Commercial shipments of the SP1 releases are officially scheduled to start in the first half of next year, but Muglia said he expects the updates to be ready by March.

Also this month, Microsoft put out the first beta of an interim Windows Server 2003 release, code-named R2, that bundles together various feature packs it has made available for the operating system. A second beta of R2 is due in the first half of 2005, and the commercial release is expected in the second half, according to Muglia.

R2 will replace the initial version of Windows Server 2003, but Muglia said existing Windows Server 2003 users should move to R2 only if they need the new features that it incorporates. "We're not asking people to upgrade," he said.

Muglia said users will still be able to purchase existing products such as the Visual Studio 2005 runtime and SharePoint Services separately from R2. "But in general, our goal moving forward is to incorporate those things into these update releases," he said.

Microsoft also plans to ship R2 editions of Windows Storage Server and Windows Small Business Server in the second half of next year, as well as the Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition, Muglia said.

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