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More details on Longhorn's shifting shape

Details of Longhorn, Microsoft's next major release of Windows, keep trickling out. This week, during an hour-long Web conference, company executives reiterated ship dates for Longhorn client (2006) and server (2007) and detailed networking plans for the new operating system, Microsoft Watch reports.

Among the highlights:

• A new IP stack with support for IPv4 and IPv6, along with wireless and multi-gigabit networks, that better integrates with firewalls, security products and parental controls.

• Support for 802.11i wireless networks and better troubleshooting tools for wireless users.

• Additional support for streaming audio and video and real-time communcations.

Microsoft has said it plans to give developers an updated test version of Longhorn in conjunction with its Windows Hardware Engineering conference next month.

Interestingly, while Microsoft has said for nearly 18 months that Longhorn will consist of three technology "pillars", and continues to do so, it appears that at least one of those pillars has changed. Still on the list are Avalon, a new graphics presentation system, and Indigo, an all-new communications subsystem.

But WinFS, a new file system and the original third pillar, has been displaced by a catch-all "fundamentals" category that includes some unspecified networking and security tune-ups. Last August, Microsoft said it was retooling its Longhorn plans and would only ship WinFS as a test version at the time of Longhorn's debut.