Word, in the form of this Infoworld report, is beginning to trickle out from Redmond about the next Microsoft operating-system cycle. In two-and-a-half years or so, Microsoft expects to unveil Vista’s successor (code-named, apparently, “Vienna” — or maybe something else).
The report provides eerie echoes of the early days of Longhorn, as Vista was originally known. At the start of the Longhorn process in 2002 the promise was a similar 2 1/2 year delivery (see for instance this now amusing report from the WINHEC hardware conference in 2002, headlined “Longhorn slips to Late 2004”). In summer of 2003 Bill Gates and other Microsoft spokespeople began telling us about all the cool stuff Longhorn would provide. At the same time, Microsoft buckled down for what would turn out to be a year-long, all-hands-on-deck effort to tighten the security holes in Windows XP; this process resulted in XP’s “Service Pack 2” release in 2004. In 2004 Microsoft realized that the original Longhorn vision was hopelessly out of reach, and it now admits that it “rebooted” the entire development process at this point.
So that’s when Microsoft exec Ben Fathi starts the clock in looking at how long it really takes Microsoft to prepare a new edition of Windows:
Vista shipped about two-and-a-half years after XP SP 2, and Vista’s follow-up is expected to take about the same amount of time, according to Fathi. “You can think roughly two, two-and-a-half years is a reasonable time frame that our partners can depend on and can work with,” he said. “That’s a good timeframe for refresh.”
All well and good. Only when Fathi starts talking about what new stuff Vienna will have to offer users, it all sounds remarkably like what Microsoft had to say in Longhorn’s early days:
So what will be the coolest new feature in Vienna? According to Fathi, that’s still being worked out. “We’re going to look at a fundamental piece of enabling technology. Maybe its hypervisors, I don’t know what it is,” he said. “Maybe it’s a new user interface paradigm for consumers.”
Over on Engadget they’re interpreting this talk to mean stuff like “full virtualization and a radical new user interface” and “a break in compatibility with older applications.”
But to me it all sounds like: “We’re going to do big, big things, but we don’t know exactly what they are yet.” And that is precisely what Longhorn’s leaders were saying as they marched their troops down the roads that would swallow the project’s first 2-3 years.
[tags]microsoft, software, windows, vista, vienna[/tags]
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