Longhorn, the next version of Windows, isn't due to ship until 2005; but according to Neowin.net, it's due on August 15 2005.
A record-breaking risky prediction? Actually, the site's taking a rather bigger risk than is immediately obvious, because it's citing Microsoft sources claiming that the date will be given to partners and OEMs next month, when it will also appear on Microsoft roadmaps. It's always less stressful to predict things that are going to happen in two years than things happening next month, but this is a next month prediction.
Naturally, it's ludicrous to believe that a precise arrival date can be specified for a product that's two years away, but there are good reasons why Microsoft needs to take a shot at it now, and reasons why August 15 is a pretty plausible shot.
Microsoft comes under continual pressure from OEMs and major customers to come up with roadmaps that are sufficiently accurate to allow them to plan rollouts, and given that what comes after XP, and when, has been surrounded by considerable murk, the company needs to get more specific about Longhorn. And it's expected to do so at next month's Professional Developers Conference.
Microsoft has insisted there's no XP SE release, that Longhorn is definitely the next one, and that Longhorn will ship in 2005. This however is not good enough if you're an experienced Microsoft partner. Early 2005? Mid-2005? Late-2005? 2005, really? ('2005, really' is generally something described as Q4 2005, but RTMing in late December, so nobody tries to sell it then, and it's a long way until holiday season 2006.
A product that will have an impact on 2005 sales, on the other hand, will hit the stores with the marketing campaigns all rolling by October. Track back from there to allow for OEM testing and production ramp, and you get the last two weeks in August. So specifying August 15 might be overkill, but it's a perfectly plausible target date for a product Microsoft wishes to ship to customers in 2005.
Of course, as major project target dates get closer, Microsoft execs tend to start saying things like 'it'll ship when it's done,' so if we start hearing that in early 2005, we should be starting work on our Plan B holiday season special deal bundles, shouldn't we, OEMs? ®