According to a report by ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft will release the next major update to Windows 2000, code-named "Whistler," in March 2001. And a previously unheard-of follow-up to Whistler, code-named "Blackcomb," is set for a 2002 or later release, Foley says. The products are named after the mountains Whistler and Blackcomb, in British Columbia, near Microsoft's base in Redmond, Washington. For Windows watchers, the revelations are a bombshell, as Windows 2000 hasn't even been released yet.

Microsoft first acknowledged "Whistler" after a WinInfo exclusive explained the company's plans for the future of Windows 2000. Originally, Microsoft was working on separate business and consumer products, code-named "Odyssey" and "Neptune" respectively. But the company reversed plans in early January, combining the two projects into a single code-base that would be developed under the Whistler moniker.

Foley reports that Microsoft employees returning from Christmas break were told of the plan changes in an internal memo. The memo outlines an even more basic plan as well, where products would be developed more quickly, with fewer features, rather than in massive three-year development cycles. Not coincidentally, I recommended this very change to Microsoft when I concluded that the development of Windows 2000--which stretched from mid-1996 to late 1999--proves that long-term, monolithic software development was a thing of the past. Well, Microsoft has embraced this theory in a big way: Whistler will ship as a "code-complete" alpha release by April, according to Foley, and a public beta in July. Foley says that the first internal build of Whistler, build 2200, was delivered this week, but I know that not to be the case: I'm aware of a number of Whistler builds before that.

As for features, the consumer version of Whistler is reportedly being designed as a superset of Windows Millennium Edition ("Windows Me"), which will ship May 26th. And like Windows 2000, Whistler will ship in Professional, Server, and Advanced Server editions for the business market, as previously reported in WinInfo.

One interesting note in the Foley report is that Microsoft's Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) initiative will be based on Blackcomb, not Whistler. Microsoft announced the initiative at the Steve Ballmer CEO press conference, but delayed revealing technical details of it until May. Features of Blackcomb, however, are still up in the air as this product is still so far down the pipeline