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Microsoft overhauls Longhorn plans

update To get next version of Windows out on time, company to delay some planned features, sources say.

update In order to get the next update of its Windows operating system out the door, Microsoft will delay some of the key improvements that had been planned, sources close to the company said Friday.

The company should announce a road map for Longhorn, its revision to Windows XP, later on Friday. The changes will allow the company to meet its most recent timetable: to have a beta version ready by next year and a final release for 2006.


What's new:
To avoid further delays, Microsoft is revising its list of what will appear in Longhorn, the next version of Windows.

Bottom line:
The company is pushing some key improvements out of Longhorn, including the WinFS file system, for its release in 2006. The trade-offs are an effort to deliver other desired features on time.

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Longhorn was originally supposed to have three major changes: a new file system, WinFS; a new graphics and presentation engine known as Avalon; and Indigo, a Web services and communication architecture.

Microsoft is making changes to all three pillars. WinFS will be available as a beta when the Longhorn release comes out as a client. Avalon and Indigo will be part of Longhorn, but also made available separately at the time the client ships for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, sources said.

According to the sources, Microsoft decided to make some trade-offs to deliver the features that corporate customers, manufacturers and consumers wanted on time.

Longhorn had already fallen behind its original schedule. Microsoft earlier this year pushed the date back to the first half of 2006, saying a test version would be delayed until next year.

The revision to the operating system had been one of the most complicated ones Microsoft had ever planned for its flagship product.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates unveiled Longhorn last October at a developers conference, sending programmers home with very early code, and promised beta versions would follow by this year. Despite the company's enthusiasm for Longhorn, Microsoft shifted a great deal of its Windows development team this year to work on the just-released Service Pack 2 security update to Windows XP.

Earlier this week, Microsoft confirmed that in the wake of SP2, it would "revisit its priorities" for Longhorn.

Executives had characterized Longhorn as a big bet but had maintained that such advances were important, even if they took time.