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Microsoft's Feature-Cutting Strategy For R2, Longhorn Raises Concern

Even as Microsoft works to avoid product delays for its Software Assurance customers in 2005, more planned features in future products may end up on cutting floor, some worry.

As it preps two Windows server updates for 2005, Microsoft is struggling to find the right balance between making--and delivering on--promises made to customers during their Software Assurance contract periods.

In the past six months, Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., has found itself in the awkward position of acknowledging that the long-promised WinFS next-generation file system would have to be cut from the Longhorn upgrade of Windows to guarantee its on-time delivery in 2006.

More recently, Microsoft executives confessed that two key features, Network Access Protection and integrated Digital Rights Management Services, which were supposed to appear in its interim R2 Windows Server 2003 update, will not make it into the 2005 server update after all.

Product delays are nothing new for Microsoft, which has traditionally deflected criticism about chronic holdups by saying it would not ship software before it is completely finished.

In an era in which Microsoft pushes annuity-based licensing and software maintenance contracts, however, the company is beginning to do just the opposite: ship software on time but before it is ready.

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