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Monday, September 06, 2004When Microsoft Co. announced on Aug. 27 that its next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, would ship as much as a year later than expected, in late 2006, the company downplayed the news. Don't be fooled, because the setback is, in fact, a big deal.It also means there won't be advances in the operating system for at least the next two years. That means customers will have one less reason to buy new PCs. And it gives an opening to the software giant's rivals, who are going after Microsoft as if it were an aging prizefighter. With every Microsoft misstep, their offerings become more attractive to both consumers and corporations. The Longhorn mess points to a recurring problem at Microsoft: Hype often gets way ahead of the company's computer science. "The priority is more on marketing than development," says Alan Paller, research director at the SANS Institute, a computer security training organization. That doesn't bode well for a company that hopes to lead the computer industry in the 21st century.With Longhorn, as with other past products, Microsoft talked up a technology it couldn't quite deliver. It set out to overhaul a central piece of desktop computing -- the way users search and store information. But it proved too difficult a challenge -- especially at a time when it is under tremendous pressure to make its current version of Windows safe from a plague of viruses, worms, spam, and pop-up ads.
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