Sources close to Microsoft tell me that the important Beta 1 release of Whistler, the next version of Windows 2000, has slipped two weeks from October 11 to October 25. The Whistler release schedule--which was reported first in WinInfo Daily Update last month--was to culminate in a final release next April. But Microsoft has publicly stated that Whistler won't ship to the public until Q3 2001, giving the company some breathing room. And with a new policy of shipping products when they're ready rather than sticking to an arbitrary schedule, Microsoft may actually be doing the right thing by delaying the release. Though the reason for the delay is currently unknown, testers can expect to see the official Beta 1 release--and possibly another interim build--in October.

Whistler, which will likely be marketed as Windows.NET 1.0, will finally consolidate Microsoft's Windows 9x and NT/2000 products into a single architecture. As such, the 32-bit OS will ship in Personal, Professional, Server, and Advanced Server editions next fall, while 64-bit versions of Professional, Server, and Advanced Server will also be provided for the Intel Itanium processor. A minor upgrade to Windows 2000, Whistler will feature a "skinnable" user interface, simplification improvements, easier to use security, improved boot times, and a number of other user request features. One nice touch, and this was a topic of some debate during the Windows 2000 beta: An alternate connection setting for network interfaces, so that the same network card can easily be used at the office and home without reconfiguring it every time you move.

Whistler will be succeeded by Blackcomb (Windows.NET 2.0), a major upgrade to Windows 2000 that will feature a new user interface and the full set of .NET technologies