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Microsoft shifts researchers to Windows unit

About 70 workers may be on Longhorn for the long haul as the software giant works up its next version of Windows.

Microsoft is shifting about 70 technical staff from its research unit into its Windows effort as the company gears up for Longhorn, the next major release of the operating system.

The developers, who had been studying various ways of improving programmer productivity, will now focus their efforts on improving all phases of Windows development, including design, testing and sustained engineering. The move is among the largest shifts of workers from the company's research unit to a product group.

"We're continuing to both grow and spin out organizations into the greater Microsoft, as time goes on," Microsoft Research head Rick Rashid said in a speech at yesterday's Microsoft Faculty Summit. The workers will be part of a new Center for Software Excellence, under the leadership of Corporate Vice President Amitabh Srivastava.

"CSE now is going to be responsible for all of the key tools within Microsoft," Rashid said. About 25 other workers that had been working on the programmer productivity project will remain in Microsoft Research.

Srivastava had moved into the Windows unit last December as part of the creation of a new Windows core unit under Brian Valentine. However, much of his original team remained part of the research group. Microsoft has shifted other units out of research, notably its SPOT (now MSN Direct) wristwatch team and the digital media division.

The company has characterized Longhorn as its most ambitious software effort in a decade and has also had to move back its planned release date for the operating system several times. After unveiling an early version of the OS last fall, the company has been saying less and less about the software or its time frame. Pressed at last week's financial analysts meeting, Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer had little to say.

The company has acknowledged that the software would not arrive until at least 2006 and has also delayed the first widespread test, or beta version, until next year.

The most recent date given for the beta had been the first half of next year, but at the financial analysts meeting, Gates and Ballmer would say only that it would come out sometime next year.