I've gotten word that the final release of Windows Server 2002 ("Whistler") has slipped a month or two from its original October 1 Release To Manufacturing (RTM) date. This places the release of the next-generation Windows Server product in November/December, with the embedded version of the OS slipping into Q1 2002. The delay doesn't affect the Windows XP ("Whistler" desktop versions) final release, which is still on track for mid-summer, or the mid-March Beta 2 release of both Windows XP and Whistler Server.

According to the latest schedules, Windows XP and Whistler Server Beta 2 will ship on March 14. After that, the two products, which are on separate development tracks, head off to different conclusions. Windows XP will hit Release Candidate (RC) 1 in April, RC2 8 weeks after that, and then RTM four weeks later. This places final release sometime in the summer; it's widely expected that Microsoft will mirror last year's Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) schedule and make Windows XP available to the public in September. Meanwhile, Whistler Server is still due to hit RC1 in late July, RC2 in late August or September, and the RTM code sometime in November or December.

Windows XP will be marketed as a major upgrade for home and business desktop users, with a new user interface, major new hardware and software compatibility enhancements, and a number of other features. Whistler Server will be less dramatic for the enterprise, with improvements to Active Directory, a new Resultant Set of Policies (RSoP) feature for testing configuration changes without applying them, and other management-oriented changes. I'll be reviewing both Windows XP and Windows Server 2002 as soon as Beta 2 is released in mid-March. Stay tuned to the Windows SuperSite for details.