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Microsoft to christen Windows, Office with new name

Redmond confirms that it will move to a new naming scheme for its next-generation Windows and Office products.

Microsoft on Monday confirmed that it is moving to a new naming scheme for its next-generation Windows and Office products.

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What's behind the new Microsoft moniker?
Tom Bailey, group product manager, Microsoft
As previously reported, Microsoft is branding Office 10 for Windows as Office XP and its Windows 2000 successor, currently code-named Whistler, as Windows XP.

XP, in both cases, stands for "experience," Microsoft said.

"The XP name is short for 'experience,' symbolizing the rich and extended user experiences Windows and Office can offer by embracing Web services that span a broad range of devices," according to a press release issued by Microsoft.

Both Office XP and Windows XP are due to ship this year, with Office XP expected by midyear. The desktop Personal and Professional versions of Windows XP are slated to ship before year-end, with various server versions to follow by several months. Beta 2 of Windows XP is expected to go to testers later this month.

Microsoft is holding a preview of its Windows XP Beta 2 code for press and analysts on Feb. 13 at the Experience Music Project museum, leading industry sources to wonder if the Jimi Hendrix song "Are You Experienced?" will become the anthem for Office, just as the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" became the theme song for Windows 95.

Although Microsoft is emphasizing the Web services orientation of Windows XP and Office XP, neither product is expected to include much of the underlying .Net technologies that Microsoft is developing to allow for software to be delivered as a Web service.

Microsoft executives have said on several occasions that customers should not expect to see .Net versions of Windows or Office for one or more years.

Microsoft's .Net is its software-as-a-service initiative. By making its various operating system, application and developer tool products able to share data via protocols, such as the XML (Extensible Markup Language) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) messaging protocols, Microsoft is aiming to make software accessible over the Internet.

The first truly .Net version of Windows is slated to be the release code-named Blackcomb, the successor to Windows XP. Blackcomb is expected to ship in 2002 or possibly later.

The first fully .Net version of Office, to which Microsoft has referred as Office .Net, isn't expected to ship in another year or two.

Though Microsoft said it will allow customers to use Office XP as a hosted product, a separate team within the company is working on a fully hosted Microsoft Office competitor, code-named Netdocs. Netdocs is currently in internal alpha testing, sources said. It is not known when Microsoft will release a commercial version of Netdocs.

Industry watchers and Microsoft customers had other ideas as to why Microsoft is moving now to rename its flagship products.

One source close to the company speculated that--at least on the Office side--Microsoft needs a way to convince customers to upgrade to its next-generation product. As sales of Office 2000, which many have criticized as being bloated and lacking compelling new features, have lagged behind company projections, Microsoft may want to distance itself from its current Office line.

Ever since the Redmond, Wash.-based company moved to a product-naming convention based on dates, such as Windows 95, Windows 2000 and Office 2000, the company has battled product-naming confusion.

For example, when Windows 2000: The next generationMicrosoft was working on naming its newest consumer Windows release last year, it ended up going with Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me), because it had already used the Windows 2000 designation for its business-oriented family of products, which also debuted last year.

On the Office side, Microsoft has been wrestling with what to call Office 10, as it is using the Office 2001 name for the Mac version of its Office suite.

Sources said that Microsoft also did not want to call Office 10 "Office.Net," since the Office 10 suite will be only loosely tied to the company's .Net strategy. Microsoft is, however, using the .Net naming convention with its forthcoming version of its Visual Studio tool suite, which the company has said it will call "Visual Studio.Net."