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Windows Longhorn public beta spurs flurry of downloads

In just three weeks, more than 100,000 downloads are circulating of Windows Longhorn Server, now named Windows Server 2008.

Los Angeles -- With its launch date still six months away, Windows Longhorn Server has attracted a swarm of users who have already downloaded 100,000 copies of Beta 3 since its release last month.

"This is a major product for us," said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates during his keynote today at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, known as WinHEC, in Los Angeles. "We expect to release [Windows Longhorn] by the end of the year," said Gates, adding that the release date will be driven by user feedback.

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Code-named Windows Longhorn Server during production, the new operating system will now be identified as Windows Server 2008 and will offer major improvements in reliability and security over Windows Server 2003, Gates said.

Dominating the Windows Server 2008 demo was the laptop quarantine feature called Network Access Protection, or NAP.

Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 also adds PowerShell, the command-line scripting language and about 1,000 Group Policy settings over Windows Server 2003, giving IT administrators a range of new capabilities that weren't possible before, such as being able to mandate BitLocker policy, said Ward Ralston, senior product manager, Windows Server division.

IT administrators will also have improved means for tracking all of the new policies in Windows Server 2008. For example, the policies are all XML based so they can be searched. Also, the Group Policy Management Console will become an integrated part of Windows Server 2008, Ralston said.

Microsoft hasn't released any details about how it will sell the server.

As for Windows Vista, Gates called out the latest adoption numbers with more than 40 million copies of Vista sold as of last week. "Copies sold twice as fast as the adoption of Windows XP," Gates said. "In the first five weeks [of the Vista launch], Vista matched the entire installed base of any other provider of similar software."

One developer at the conference wasn't too impressed with the large number of Vista downloads touted by Gates, and said he believed the rollout of Vista may be slower than XP or even the consumer focused Windows ME, two earlier versions.

"The general thinking is that it will be a slow roll out," said Mark Stevens, a developer at Sharp Labs of America in Camas, Wash. "Vista is coming but I see no push from a developer standpoint. There just isn't the same excitement," he said.

As for the 40 million copies of Vista sold by Microsoft?

"I don't put a lot of stock in numbers," Stevens said. "You can't tell if they are forced sales of new machines from people who really need to upgrade. People demanding Vista is another thing entirely." he said.

Margie Semilof contributed to this report.

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