Microsoft has set the official Windows Server 2003 launch date: April 24. The OS product family, which the company recently renamed from Windows .NET Server 2003, will launch in San Francisco with Visual Studio .NET 2003, the company says. "Microsoft will unveil \[Windows Server 2003 and Visual Studio 2003\] and demonstrate how customers can quickly build, deploy, and manage a complete server solution for connected platforms," Bob O'Brien, the Windows Server Group product manager, told me yesterday.

Windows Server 2003 is the successor to Windows 2000 Server. The product began life as Whistler Server alongside Windows XP, then became known as Whistler. However, after the beta 2 release of both products in early 2001, their release schedules diverged, and Microsoft released XP in October 2001.

The name of Windows Server 2003 changed several times during its development. Microsoft told me this week that it made the change to Windows Server 2003--away from Windows .NET Server 2003--in response to partner and customer feedback. The company is moving toward a branding strategy for its products in which ".NET Connected" is the moniker Microsoft uses to identify products that "enable customers to easily and consistently connect disparate information, systems, and devices to meet their people and business needs, regardless of underlying platform or programming languages." Microsoft will use this branding on its own products and will also let software partners that meet certain criteria do so.