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Allchin: From Longhorn to Lonestar

Microsoft Group Vice President Jim Allchin talks--a little--about Windows beta releases and touts the next version of the company's tablet PC software.

LOS ANGELES--While Microsoft won't say when to expect Longhorn, Microsoft Platforms Group Vice President Jim Allchin did commit to some interim milestones and promised some other Windows releases along the way.

At the end of his keynote speech at the company's Professional Developers Conference here, Allchin promised that a beta version of Windows would come next summer but said he wouldn't get pinned down further. "We're not going to make other commitments of when we are going to get done with this product," he said.

Analysts generally give 2006 as the likely debut date for Longhorn, the next version of Windows.

Allchin did offer details on some other releases of Windows that are coming, including a new release of Microsoft XP Tablet PC Edition. The new version, code-named Lonestar, is slated to come out in the first half of next year and offer "dramatically better" handwriting recognition. An interim update of Windows XP--Service Pack 2--is also due in the same time frame.

As for Longhorn, Allchin said programs that run in Windows XP, barring any security isues, will also run in Longhorn, as will programs it develops for Microsoft's .Net Framework. Still, Allchin urged developers to start thinking about using new tools--WinFX and XAML (pronounced "zamel," short for Transaction Authority Markup Language) that will take advantage of Longhorn's new features.

Allchin's appearance on the stage followed that of company Chairman Bill Gates, who earlier Monday offered the first look at Longhorn to conference attendees.

But even as he was trying to spur interest among developers, Allchin warned that the preview version of Longhorn Microsoft gave today is not ready for prime time.

"We still are very early," Allchin said. "We've never shared bits this early."

He warned developers not to put it on their main production machines and cautioned against connecting devices to the Internet.

He added that "the performance is not good."

Most of Allchin's keynote, though, was devoted to Longhorn's potential abilities, with demos from a few third parties. Executives from e-commerce company Amazon.com, drug maker Merck and software company Adobe Systems shared some of their ideas for how the new operating system might be used.