Microsoft Command Shell availability for Longhorn Server still open

Redmond (WA) - The possibility remains open that Microsoft Command Shell (MSH) - the command-line driven administration console for next-generation Windows, code-named "Monad" - may be made available in the same timeframe as Windows Longhorn Server, either as part of the product or as a separate download, a Microsoft spokesperson told Tom’s Hardware Guide today. However, a formal decision, said the spokesperson, has yet to be made.

This afternoon’s statement comes in the wake of international headlines echoing reports from software provider F-Secure, that an Austrian programmer had developed proof-of-concepts for five so-called "Vista viruses." These programs essentially consisted of fundamental file system-damaging techniques and experimental self-replication - old school MS-DOS methodologies - applied to the MSH shell. The F-Secure report inaccurately characterized MSH as the "default shell" for Windows Vista.

However, Vista is the client
- based edition of the next-generation Windows operating system, that entered its first broad-scale beta cycle last 27 July. In repudiating the validity of the F-Secure report, Microsoft spokespersons were quoted as saying that the alleged viruses did not apply to Vista, because the MSH shell they targeted was not a part of Vista. This acknowledgement immediately led to further headlines stating that Microsoft has "withdrawn" MSH from Vista, when - as Microsoft confirmed to us yet again this afternoon - the shell was never considered for Vista, the client-edition of the new Windows.

At least one Microsoft spokesperson, however, was quoted elsewhere this morning as saying that the MSH shell may not be available anywhere at all for the next three to five years, which led to a further wave of corrections from Microsoft, including the one we received this afternoon.

To reiterate what Microsoft’s spokesperson told us today : A formal decision has not yet been reached regarding whether Microsoft Command Shell will be made available during the 2007 Longhorn Server release timeframe, as well as whether it will be a formal part of the operating system or an optional component for download. However, as of today, we are told, the possibility remains open that MSH may be included in the commercial release of Longhorn Server. MSH will not be a part of Windows Vista.

The "three-to-five year timeframe" which Tom’s Hardware Guide has reported on extensively over the past few months - and which often emerges from the lips of Microsoft spokespersons these days - refers to a period of phased implementation of various new Windows technologies, including MSH. When MSH is first made available, even though Microsoft’s Exchange e-mail server will reportedly be the first to make extensive use of MSH, not all existing technologies will be able to take full advantage of it. Furthermore, certain technologies will need to be developed to give MSH a firmer footing in the operating system - for instance, enhanced file system security that would render F-Secure’s "proof-of-concept viruses" inoperative. All of these variables, taken collectively, may contribute to Microsoft’s continued hesitation to set a firm release date for MSH, although we are told the project’s internal development is proceeding on schedule.

This morning’s confusion may partly stem from the fact that only one portion of next-generation Windows had been re-christened from "Longhorn" to "Vista," and the server edition has yet to be given a formal name. Educated speculation is that the server edition’s final name will be "Windows Server 2007." When the MSH project was first given Microsoft’s official blessing, it had been called "Longhorn Command Shell," apparently leading some to believe it would become "Vista Command Shell." MSH is being characterized as an administrator’s tool, and not a "power toy" for the remaining DOS enthusiasts.

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