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Microsoft delays release of Windows.Net Server

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Microsoft confirmed Friday that it is pushing back the release date of Windows.Net Server by six months.

The software, which is the next version of Windows 2000 server, was supposed to ship in the first half of this year but is now slated to ship in the second half. Microsoft says a "release candidate," which is a final beta test before product shipment, will happen this summer.

On the whole, the delay is not really bad news for IT executives. "Now they have one less thing to worry about," says John Enck, an analyst with Gartner. But Enck says there are two classes of users that may feel some pinch.

"There are the guys on NT that skipped Windows 2000. This delay now makes it more dangerous as they look at the 2004 drop-dead date for the end of NT support. And the guys who are already running Windows 2000 and waiting for the improvements to Active Directory now have to wait longer."

The big issue for Microsoft itself is that the delay of Windows.Net Server means the late arrival of the first server to natively include the .Net Framework, the runtime environment for Web-based distributed applications built using Visual Studio.Net. The .Net Framework, however, was released last month along with Visual Studio.Net and can be installed on Windows 2000.

The .Net Framework is a critical foundation technology for Microsoft's .Net strategy to deliver software over the Internet as a set of components. The Windows.Net Server delay is due in part to a directive issued in January by Bill Gates, Microsoft's chief security architecture, that product development will focus more on security, privacy and availability, or what he called "trustworthy computing". Microsoft has delayed the start of any new development projects as it focuses on shoring up security in its current development efforts, including instructing its engineers on the latest secure coding techniques.

Microsoft did not rule out the possibility that the impact of that effort may further delay Windows.Net Server. In a statement about the delay, the company said "there will continue to be modifications and additions to engineering processes and procedures that may lengthen the delivery schedule in the short term but will yield higher quality and customer approval in the long term."

IT executives can only hope. Last month alone, Microsoft posted 12 security bulletins patching various problems in its software from Internet Explorer to SQL Server. Security is a major issue as Microsoft embarks on its .Net strategy, which assumes a secure distributed computing environment. Over the years, however, Microsoft products have been hit repeatedly by security breaches and malicious code.

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Contact Senior Editor John Fontana

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