However, the software maker is taking a couple of features out of the operating system release to make sure it can come out by the second half of next year.
As previously reported, Microsoft is delaying one of the key selling points for R2--a Network Access Protection feature that allows corporate networks to quarantine machines re-entering the network. The company said Monday that it is delaying much of that capability until 2007 to collaborate with Cisco Systems to make sure the companies have compatible approaches to network security.
The R2 release was not on Microsoft's roadmap until February, when Bill Gates mentioned in an interview with News.com that some sort of interim release was likely. Microsoft later outlined R2 as a release that would add a few enhancements as well as combine some already released "feature packs."
The rest of the server roadmap, which Microsoft last outlined in May, remains on track, according to the company. Next up is Service Pack 1 of Windows Server 2003, slated for the first half of next year. Microsoft said it now sees having a near-final, or "release candidate" version of the service pack by year's end.
"We're getting closer," said Samm DiStasio, a product manager in Microsoft's Windows Server unit. Service Pack 1 adds many of the security changes Microsoft made in SP2 for Windows XP, as well as a new "security configuration wizard" as well as performance improvements, DiStasio said.
In 2006, the company expects a second service pack for Windows Server 2003 before releasing the next major update--Windows Server "Longhorn"--in 2007. The company expects to have its first beta, or test version, of Longhorn Server next year.
Some analysts had thought Microsoft might drop R2 to meet its Longhorn targets, but DiStasio said service packs and interim releases like R2 won't slow Longhorn or overload corporate IT departments.
"We're taking features that we already have in development," said product manager Samm DiStasio. "One of the things we don't want to do in these releases is put things in...that change the core and force new testing cycles."