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More Blackcomb/Whistler info surfaces

Contrary to a report last week in ZDNet, Microsoft has been building its first post-Windows 2000 product, code-named "Whistler", for some time now. The first internal build of Whistler, build 2197, went out internally weeks ago, not as build 2200 last week as reported in ZDNet. And the release--which might also be thought of as Windows NT 5.1--will incorporate all of the bug fixes from the Windows 2000 service packs that get released this year as well as a new extensible user interface currently dubbed Forms+.

And if you're wondering about Blackcomb, the next major release of Windows 2000, you can think of that as Windows NT 6.0 if you'd like to put it in perspective. Details on Blackcomb, of course, remain in flux. However, I have learned that Blackcomb is designed to be quicker than Windows 2000, as NT 3.5 was when compared to version 3.1. It will feature a new relational database-based file system dubbed Storage+ and natural language processing. And the basic engine, or kernel, will be much changed in Blackcomb, though the basic set of functions it performs will not. Improvements to Active Directory are in the works for Blackcomb as well.

Most importantly, Microsoft has learned its lesson with extended product development. Windows 2000 was in the oven for over three years and it shows: While the product is elegant and refined, it's also humongous, a clear sign that feature after feature was simply lumped onto the old NT 4.0 chassis. This type of development has never been a hallmark of the old NT, though it pervades in Windows 98 SE and Millennium, both of which trace their roots back to MS-DOS 1.0, which accompanied the first IBM PC in the early 1980's. Going forward, Microsoft is taking a more modern approach to software development. All bug fixes will be issued in service packs, which will be released on an orderly schedule. And these service packs will not fix irrelevant bugs or add any new features, avoiding the "kitchen sink" approach of Windows NT 4.0's service packs. How new features will be added remains to be seen: If Microsoft follows its original plans, features will be added to the OS via "option packs." One such option pack was released for Windows NT 4.0; it featured an updated version of IIS, Microsoft's Web server, and some other improvements.

Before Whistler and Blackcomb, however, we've got a number of Windows 2000-related releases to look forward to. Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows 2000 is due in June, along with the DataCenter Server edition. A 64-bit version of Windows 2000 Server is due mid-year, coinciding with the release of Intel's 64-bit Itanium microprocessor. And Windows 2000-enhanced updates to BackOffice Server and BackOffice Small Business Server are also due this year, around mid-summer and late summer, respectively. The BackOffice suites are waiting on Exchange Server 2000 and SQL Server 2000, however: Both are due by mid-year. In March, Microsoft will outline the technology behind its Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS), a set of new products and services that will be built on Blackcomb, the next major version of Windows

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