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Microsoft server preview is short on detail

The software giant updates its server software road map but offers hardware makers few specifics about many of the products on the horizon.

SEATTLE--Microsoft on Tuesday updated its server software road map but offered hardware makers few specifics about several of the products on the horizon.

Microsoft Group Vice President Jim Allchin said the server version of Longhorn--the next major version of Windows--is now more in line with the desktop version and that both operating systems are slated to be in beta form by next year.

We're "building it in sync," Allchin told attendees at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference here. Allchin noted that this represents a change of plans, compared with the company's vision a year ago. "That wasn't our plan...but it is our plan today," Allchin said.

Allchin also indicated that there is a "Windows Server 2003 update" on the road map for next year, but he did not offer much in the way of details. The update is in addition to "Service Pack 1" of Windows Server 2003, which is slated to be released later this year.

Microsoft had earlier indicated that it was considering an update to the server OS prior to the arrival of Longhorn server. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates first mentioned the update in an interview in March with CNET News.com.

The company has had little to say about the features that will be part of either the update or Longhorn server itself.

As part of his speech, Allchin discussed a forthcoming security feature that will allow PCs that are tunneling into a corporate network to be essentially quarantined until the IT department can run tests on the machines to ensure that they are virus-free.

He also offered a few demonstrations of Longhorn, including one designed to show the improved graphics abilities of the new OS. The demo had a few glitches, but it eventually showed Longhorn to be better able to render multiple 3D images than its predecessor, Windows XP.

Allchin also listed a number of the desktop and portable OS projects on tap for this year and next--reiterating that this year, the company will ship its portable Windows Media Center devices, as well as an update to Windows Media Player and MSN Music, an online music store. Also slated for this year are updates to the Tablet PC and Windows Media Center editions of Windows XP.

Microsoft also added that portable Media Center and Media Center Extender devices to appear later this year will include new digital rights management software that the company unveiled earlier this week, as well as better synchronization capabilities and a new media transfer protocol.

Later Tuesday, Gates is slated to deliver a keynote speech at the conference, showing off a series of new devices collectively dubbed the "Windows Home Concept."