Back in March we brought you the news that Microsoft was preparing enterprise customers for an evolutionary (read: "cashflow-friendly") upgrade to Windows XP, dubbed "XP Second Edition", as an interim before the much-vaunted Longhorn overhaul.
That looks a little more likely after the leak last night of a fresh Longhorn build that Neowin reckons is the first sighting of "XP Plus". Microsoft execs spent the spring vehemently denying any such thing, instead referring the press to forthcoming XP service packs and Longhorn targets.
But by April Allchin had confirmed Longhorn had slipped to 2004 in April, and by June it had receded even further into a 2005 product. This fall the "Second Edition" option looked a lot more likely.
Neowin reports that the most recent build integrates existing clients - IE 6.5 and Media Player 8 - rather than new versions of these clients. There's no sign of WinFS, perhaps the key feature of Longhorn. But since Microsoft hasn't yet taken the decision on whether to include WinFS in Longhorn, we shouldn't read too much into the omission.
Was it ever Microsoft's intention to foreswear the annual Upgrade habit for so long? We don't know, but a primary goal of such roadmap hints is market testing. We do know that feedback from enterprises in the new year indicated that Update-Fatigue was the biggest beef that large customers had with Windows: even trumping security gripes. So Microsoft was simultaneously testing the "no upgrades" spin while it was gauging the reaction to an XP SE.
We've noted before that until XP, Microsoft has had two Windows product lines from which to pull its annual upgrade. Now there's one codebase for business and consumer. It could yet seek to recreate that bifurcation with a "business only" upgrade and give the Home XP line its own range of updates (with say, Tablet, Mira and multimedia enhancements).
Any guesses where that leaves Gates' list of "ten key Longhorn scenarios" that he hinted to Forbes here?
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