The release of Longhorn, the next version of Windows Server, looks as though it may be slipping with Microsoft announcing its third beta will be out in the "first half" of next year where previously it has indicated it would be "early 2007".

Nonetheless, Windows Server's marketing head Bob Visse said that the operating system would meet its already-delay release of the end of 2007.

Beta 3 of Longhorn is expected to be feature complete and will be tweaked only for performance and quality control before the first release candidates of the product appear, Visse said.

New features include improvements in the system's management and better security - both features that users had requested following the release of current version, Windows Server 2003.

On Tuesday, Microsoft will release a second service pack of patches and updates for Windows Server 2003, with new technology to help sysadmins prepare for the deployment of Windows Vista. Vista will be available to business customers at the end of the month.

Original reporting by IDG News Service