Microsoft: Whistler Will Unify NT/9x Code Base

NEW ORLEANS -- Microsoft Corp. has talked about a unified code base for its consumer and business operating systems for a long time. At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) held here late last month, company officials promised the next version of Windows 2000 would be the one to bring the codes together.

"Next year the consumer segment is going to start the move in full momentum to using technology based on the Windows NT code base," says Carl Stork, general manager of the Windows Hardware Strategy Group at Microsoft.

The operating system, code-named Whistler, is the follow-on to Windows 2000. Stork assured hardware developers that they shouldn’t worry about extra work on drivers and other code for Whistler.

"If things work on Windows 2000, they’re going to work on Whistler. It’s a small, logical upgrade," Stork says.

For consumers, Whistler is two releases out. One more consumer release is planned to come out this year using the Windows 9x code base, Windows ME, which stands for Millennium Edition.

"Windows ME is the last full release of an OS product from Microsoft that’s based on the Windows 9x code base," Stork says.

Microsoft is already trying to move business clients off the 9x code base and onto Windows 2000 Professional, although it has received some customer pushback. The development team initially left some corporate networking capabilities out of Windows ME. Customer pressure forced Microsoft to put the networking functions back into the consumer-oriented operating system.

While business users and consumers will share a code base, Whistler will yield at least two client operating system packages, Stork explains. "One is optimized for business users -- a logical follow on to Windows 2000 -- and another optimized for consumers and entry-level users."

Microsoft expects to release a 64-bit version of Windows 2000 Professional later this year concurrent with the release of a 64-bit processor from Intel Corp. (www.intel.com). Redmond will offer both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Whistler, but it was not immediately clear whether Microsoft planned a 64-bit consumer version of Whistler.

Microsoft is already bringing some of the enhancements from Windows 2000 into Windows ME, including hibernation mode and the Windows 2000 TCP/IP stack.

The Whistler version is to include new multiuser enhancements, such as allowing one user to log off a machine without quitting applications.