Longhorn is Now Windows Vista

— -- It's not Longhorn anymore. Microsoft today announced that Windows Vista will be the official name of the next version of its flagship operating system, and that beta 1 of the OS will arrive by August 3.

The announcement was made Thursday afternoon at a briefing in Atlanta to some 10,000 Microsoft sales and service employees and then revealed this morning via a video posted on Microsoft's Web site.

"So there's no more Longhorn, we're now officially Windows Vista," Brian Valentine, senior vice president of Windows Core Operating System told the cheering crowd.

Why Windows Vista? Greg Sullivan, group product manager in the Windows client division, said Microsoft had received good feedback when it abandoned numeric names based, first, on release numbers (e.g., Windows 3.1) and then release dates such as Windows 95 in favor of Windows XP, "a moniker that tried to express something about the product itself."

The key goal of Longhorn, Sullivan added, was to deal with a world in which "there's just more and more stuff. We really turn to our PCs to help manage this 'more,' and we need a system that helps bring clarity to us."

"That's what Windows Vista is about, bringing clarity to the world so you can focus on what matters to you."

Microsoft today also put up a Web site, explaining Windows Vista and reminding readers that the final version of the operating system isn't expected until 2006.

Sullivan noted that beta 1, when it arrives in the next couple of weeks, will only be distributed in the development and IT community and not to the public at large.

"Beta 1 is almost exclusively a plumbing release. Our view that the end user functionality is not in beta 1, it's in beta 2. The true essence of the product that's going to reflect the name as well is going to be in beta 2," Sullivan said.

The first beta will include only some of Vista's promised functionality, such as virtual folders and a new desktop search engine, but will not include much of the graphical user interface (GUI) enhancements of the finished product, Sullivan said, adding that those features will be available in beta 2. He did not disclose a time frame for that release, saying that depends on the feedback Microsoft receives about beta 1.

Microsoft is also widely expected to release more Vista bits to developers at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles in mid-September, but Sullivan said it has not been decided whether or not this will occur. "There will certainly be more disclosure on features that will be added post-beta 1 [at the PDC]," he said.