NEW ORLEANS (04/26/2000) - For users who are already implementing or are planning to implement Windows 2000, its successor - code-named Whistler and scheduled for release in the second half of next year - will offer only incremental improvements, it was revealed at Microsoft Corp.'s WinHEC conference here this week.
At the annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, Microsoft outlined its product plans for hardware manufacturers. Several sessions at the event focused on Whistler, which will be the joint successor to Windows 2000 for business users and to the Windows Me upgrade that's due out later this year for home users.
Carl Stork, general manager of the Windows hardware strategy group at Microsoft, said Whistler "will probably be a fairly minor upgrade" for business users - despite shipping almost two years after Windows 2000.
Whistler will be delivered in the form of at least two client operating systems, Stork said: one for consumers, which will offer a superset of Windows Me's digital media features, and one for business users, which will be the direct successor to Windows 2000 Workstation.
On the desktop, Windows 2000 users can expect the updated Internet Explorer 5.5 browser and some small graphical user interface tweaks in Whistler, said Stork.
For example, if several Windows are opened in an application such as Microsoft Outlook, they will no longer each form a separate button on the tool bar.
Instead, there will be one button on the tool bar, with a menu dropping out of it -- a design technique aimed at avoiding tool bar clutter.
A personal version of Windows Terminal Server also will be included in Whistler, allowing users to access their desktops remotely over the Internet using another PC or a Windows-based terminal, Stork said.
Stork and other Microsoft executives said network administrators will receive more management tools, including better software to automate operating system installations. They will also be able to centrally switch off the new user interface features -- so as not to confuse users. And Whistler will support Universal Plug and Play, Microsoft's technology that lets network devices announce their services on a network.
On the server side, Whistler will offer more self-configuration and self-tuning features, according to Microsoft. It will also sport hooks into the operating system for remote-control tools. The Advanced Server version of Whistler will support four-node clustering, up from two-node support in Windows 2000 Advanced Server.
In the more immediate future, Microsoft will ship Windows 2000 Datacenter to hardware makers. That operating system is due to be released within 120 days of February's introduction of Windows 2000.
But Microsoft executives at WinHEC said machines based on Windows 2000 Datacenter aren't likely to ship to end users until later in the year. The data center version of the operating system, which will support up to 32 processors and four-node clustering, will only be available pre-installed on approved systems.
Microsoft also confirmed that 64-bit Windows will be part of the Windows 2000 product family and will ship together with the first systems based on Intel Corp.'s new Itanium processor later this year.
In his keynote speech on Tuesday, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates showed a pre-alpha versions of 64-bit Windows 2000 and Microsoft's SQL Server database running on a four-processor Itanium server made by Compaq Computer Corp.
Stork said Microsoft will deliver separate workstation and server versions of 64-bit Windows. Initially, he said, 64-bit Windows 2000 Server will be aimed at use on Itanium-based servers running large databases and enterprise resource planning software, plus certain e-commerce applications.