Windows Server: Microsoft's mod OS

When Microsoft launches Windows Server 2003 next month, many additional pieces to the operating system will be works in progress. The Redmond, Wash.-based company is taking a more modular approach to shipping the OS compared with earlier Windows Server versions. That could translate into greater flexibility delivering additional components over a longer period of time. The strategy will also let Microsoft release technologies that simply won't be ready in time for Windows Server 2003's April 24 launch.

Previously, Microsoft has released the bulk of features with a major Windows Server version, adding minor enhancements over time. The new approach means enhancements to Windows Server 2003 can be made before the release of the next version of Microsoft's server operating system, code-named Blackcomb, in a few years. One of the most significant updates would likely come after Microsoft ships Windows XP's successor on the desktop, code-named Longhorn, in late 2004 or early 2005.

Analysts praised the new approach as smart business on Microsoft's part and as beneficial to customers, who would see the value of their Windows Server investment increase as new features become available. The strategy shift also could help Microsoft combat the appearance that its software development efforts are lumbering compared with that of Linux and other open-source software. But delivery of so many pieces after the server software launches also raises a specter of doubt over a product that Microsoft delayed shipping three times over two years. The problem isn't future technologies that are in development but a long list of components announced as part of Windows Server 2003 that will ship over the six months after the product's launch.

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