Gates Promises Longhorn Beta In 2005 Despite Security Concerns

Microsoft has recommitted to releasing Longhorn, its next-generation Windows client and server, into beta testing in 2005, despite security concerns.

May 5, 2004

4 Min Read
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Microsoft has recommitted to releasing Longhorn, its next-generation Windows client and server, into beta testing in 2005 even though its chairman acknowledged that security concerns threaten his dream of enabling seamless connectivity and Web services.

At the company's annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference 2004 in Seattle, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates and executives demonstrated updated alpha and software development kit (SDK) of the Longhorn client, as well as potential Universal Plug and Play (UpnP) technology that could connect various Windows network-attached devices. Microsoft called the alpha a developer's preview. The first developer preview was released last fall.

Microsoft detailed efforts to enhance Windows connectivity by means of the Devices Profile for Web Services specification, which enables Web services to link smart devices, and USB Flash Drive technology for simplifying wireless network security. He acknowledged that enhancing connectivity does add new security concerns, but said Microsoft and its partners will make it work.

"All boundaries [between Windows devices] will be broken down by having software connectivity," said Gates, noting that OEMs can use Microsoft's own implementation of the Windows network connected technology to implement Web services on devices. "This is where software connections and high-speed network connections are critical .. Bringing together those worlds that have been separate is real important to us [and getting] that done in a secure way so you can discover it."

Gates predicted optimistically that new methods of isolating Windows from hacker attacks will dramatically ease the crisis over the next two years. Microsoft's plans to support Intel's "No Execute" (NX) memory protection, new wireless networking features and setup in Windows XP Service Pack 2, along with enhanced security in the next Internet Protocol stack will resolve the current security problems."Security concerns show up," said Gates, describing the epidemic of viruses and worms as a limiting factor in connecting PCs, home entertainment systems and digitally connected handheld devices. "As we look at security broadly, we need to solve lots of problems," including potential network and Windows compromises that invite "a flood of network attacks," Gates said. He noted that update services will help protect consumers and businesses faster and better. "We feel very optimistic it'll be in place."

Still, neither he nor Microsoft chief platforms architect Jim Allchin would say when the Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be released. The company confirmed recently that the release will be delayed until the second half of the year.

"SP2 will have new browsing experience that's safer, intrusion protection and data execution protection technologies," Allchin said about new technologies being integrated into AMD and Intel processors. "If someone tries to execute in the heap, it'll be prevented."

Allchin did confirm on Tuesday that the security-focused Windows server 2003 Service Pack 1 remains slated for release the second half of 2004, and that another Windows Server 2003 Update will be released in 2005 before Longhorn.

On the same day that Linux leader Red Hat officially launched its first major corporate desktop into the market, Gates and Allchin focused the bulk of their time on the entire wave of next-generation Windows products.Microsoft showed advanced 3-D and streaming media capabilities of the Longhorn GUI and "superfetch" technology that offers better handling of virtual memory. It also demonstrated a new File Transfer Wizard and a smart USB cable that can rapidly enable the migration of all files from one PC to another using a single monitor. As another plus for OEMs, Microsoft will integrate into Longhorn an image-based setup and Windows Pre-Installation Environment (PE), executives said.

Microsoft also gave an updated roadmap of its Windows client and server technologies. For example, Microsoft is working on Windows Smart Network Key Wizard wireless security and Bluetooth support in Windows XP SP2. The company also remains committed to shipping Windows Server 2003 service pack 1 with advanced security technologies during the second half of 2004. Also for this year, Microsoft plans to deliver Windows XP 64-bit Virtual Server 2005 as well as a service pack for Small Business Server 2003.

Next year, Microsoft will update both Windows server 2003 and Windows Small Business server 2003, and release a new Windows Storage Server code-named "Storm," Allchin said.

On the consumer front, Microsoft said this year it will release Windows CE 5.0, Tablet PC 2005 Edition, Windows Media Center 2004, a Portable Media Center and Windows Media Center Extended technology, which enables consumers to move digital images, photos, music and documents from their PC into Windows Media Center and digital televisions.

Together with Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft demonstrated a prototype home PC, dubbed Windows Home Concept, that incorporates Windows Media Center with integrated telephone, voice recognition, voice over IP and personal audio/video and media libraries on future home systems."Tying devices together across the net is super, super hard," said Allchin, group vice president for Microsoft's Platforms Group. "We're just at the beginning. We're just getting started on this path."

Gates said Microsoft is making "breakthroughs" in connecting systems with its Plug-N-Play technologies, Smart Key wireless technology and other wireless networking advances that will essentially "hide" from end users the USB, 802.11, UltraWide Band and DSL/Cable underpinnings.

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