Microsoft has synchronised development efforts for the client and server versions of Longhorn, the code name for the next Windows release, a Microsoft executive says.

"Today, the Longhorn client and the Longhorn server are tied together," Jim Allchin, vice president of Microsoft's platforms group, said in a keynote presentation at the company's annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC).

Longhorn's release is still some time away. Microsoft executives have pointed to 2006 as the release year for the product. However, in his presentation Allchin did not give a target ship date for the client or server versions of the software.

Previously, after hedging on whether it would even release a Longhorn server, Microsoft said it will introduce the server some time after the client release.

Allchin did not clarify whether aligning development of the Longhorn client and server also means the versions will ship simultaneously. Analysts with Directions on Microsoft attending the event say they still expect the server release to follow the client, since it will need additional testing.

A Microsoft spokesperson later confirmed the analysts' expectations.

"Even with synchronised development cycles, a major release of the Windows server and client will almost always ship with some time interval difference," the spokesperson says. How much difference is still being determined, she adds.

"The important thing to understand is that server development, as you come down the home stretch to release, takes a little more bake time than client products," she says.

The companies attending WinHEC will get a preview version of Longhorn for development purposes. Software Developers got an earlier preview version last year.

Allchin gave the audience of hardware makers a sneak peek at the operating system's graphics capabilities by opening several windows of moving images. On a Windows XP PC, the images got jittery and the video memory quickly maxed out; on the Longhorn system, the images were fluent and the system was able to run the Quake video game in the background.

Allchin also showed a file migration wizard, designed to make it easier for users to move files from a Windows XP system to a new PC running Longhorn. Users will be able to migrate using a special USB cable or over a network. Allchin also showed how Longhorn can be installed from a USB flash memory drive.

Ultimately, a migration should be simple and not take a weekend, he said.

Allchin urged the hardware makers to work with Microsoft on products that offer great user experiences.

"Today the PC is often still considered just a tool, but together we need to make it a lot more than that. We need to make it a path to experiences," he said. "Experience computing, what's that about? It is not about speeds and feeds, it's about sights and sounds."

Indeed, Microsoft christened its previous Windows release "XP" for experience.