Microsoft contacted me Friday afternoon to inform me that the company will ship Longhorn, its next major Windows release, in 2006, as previously planned. And although the company hasn't offered many specific details about how it plans to meet this suddenly aggressive ship date, one major feature, WinFS, won't be included in Longhorn, and two other features, Avalon and Indigo, will ship separately for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Thus, the Longhorn we'll get in 2006 won't be as full-featured as we originally expected. Houston, I think we have a problem.
  
"With the shipment of Windows XP Service Pack 2 this month, Microsoft is now finalizing plans for how and when to deliver Longhorn," a Microsoft representative told me Friday. "As a result, the company announced today it is now targeting 2006 for Longhorn to be broadly available. Longhorn will deliver major improvements in user productivity, important new capabilities for software developers, and significant enhancements in security, deployment, and reliability.
  
"Microsoft will release the new Windows storage subsystem, codenamed WinFS, after the Longhorn release. WinFS is expected to be in beta when the Longhorn client becomes available. The Windows WinFX developer technologies, including the new presentation subsystem codenamed Avalon and the new communication subsystem code-named Indigo, will be made available for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 in 2006. Longhorn server is still expected to be available in 2007."
  
Obviously, this change marks a major departure for the software giant, which had previously pledged to make Longhorn its most impressive Windows update ever. However, since announcing these early, lofty goals, the company has steadily missed deadlines and restarted Longhorn-related projects. Just this month, for example, the core Windows team gave up its plan to make the Windows Server-based Longhorn source code component-based and literally started over from scratch using the XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) code base. That change alone would have delayed Longhorn for several months had the company tried to continue its original rollout plans.
 
For more information about the Longhorn schedule and the features that will or won't be included in the product's initial release, refer to the SuperSite for Windows. The article "The Road to Windows 'Longhorn' 2004" discusses these topics in more depth. I'll update the article throughout the week.