May 13, 2004 12:01 PM PDT

Longhorn goes to pieces

Bill Gates' dream of an end-to-end search tool for corporate networks remains just that: a dream, at least until the end of the decade.

Advanced search features that Gates has termed the "Holy Grail" of Longhorn, the next major version of Windows, won't be fully in place until 2009, Bob Muglia, the senior vice president in charge of Windows server development, told CNET News.com.

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What's new:
Advanced search features that Bill Gates has termed the "Holy Grail" of Longhorn, the next major version of Windows, won't be fully in place until 2009.

Bottom line:
The shifting features and delivery schedules for Longhorn are further indications that Microsoft's goals for the operating system may have outstripped the company's ability to build and deliver the software.

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The technology, called WinFS, is an add-on the Windows file system that Microsoft says will make it easier for users to find data such as documents, e-mail messages and multimedia files--no matter what their format--on local PCs and across the network.

Microsoft does plan to include WinFS in the client version of Longhorn, which is expected to ship by mid-2006. And Muglia said WinFS will be included in the server version of Longhorn, slated to debut in 2007. However, "some of the functionality of WinFS and some of the scenarios may be limited in terms of what it can do. I don't know that we will have all of the scale to the level where we would like to have it, so that you could use it for very high-volume enterprise servers," he said.

The translation: WinFS won't be fully useable on a large-scale basis to search content across corporate networks when Longhorn server ships. "So it could be that for example, you could use WinFS as a server for collaboration in workgroups. But if you want to support hundreds of users, that may wait for the update release," Muglia said.

Bob Muglia, senior VP, Microsoft

The shifting delivery schedules for Longhorn are further indication that Microsoft's goals for the operating system may have outstripped the company's ability to build and deliver the software. And other Longhorn changes are under way. While WinFS has been scaled back, another major feature, code-named Indigo, may arrive sooner than expected, most likely before Longhorn, Muglia said.

The concepts behind the WinFS project have been in development in one form or another at Microsoft for more than a decade. The search idea, which Gates has personally championed at Microsoft, was originally conceived as an addition to Windows in the early 1990s.

With WinFS, Microsoft hopes to address a conundrum as old as the computer industry itself: how to quickly find and work with a piece of information, no matter what its format, from any location. Such search technology could also be a powerful sales tool, as Microsoft looks to give both businesses and consumers a reason to upgrade to Longhorn.

But the plan has so far proven to be too ambitious. "There were a lot of dreams that people had inside of Microsoft for what Longhorn server would do. There is a natural process, whereby as a release transitions from the early dream stage into the reality stage, the functionality and the scenarios get cut back. That's part of the natural process that every release goes through," Muglia said.

Last month, Jim Allchin, the Microsoft executive in charge of all Windows development, told CNET News.com that some features of Longhorn were being cut from the first releases of the software in order to accelerate development.

Muglia said Allchin was referring to WinFS work. "There (are) areas of maturity associated with what you would expect from an enterprise-class file system that we are going to continue to work on."

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Bob Brown, CEO, BlackBall

Analysts said they expect other alterations in the software's feature set, since Microsoft needs to begin a testing process for Longhorn with its partners and customers. Based on the feedback from customers, Microsoft will either scale back hoped-for features or prioritize others, said Al Gillen, an analyst with research firm IDC.

"Longhorn is still so far out there, I don't think anything is locked down yet," Gillen said. "Because this is a step-by-step process, I think it's too early to proclaim what's in and what's not in Longhorn when even Microsoft doesn't know."

As the dates for future release get closer, Microsoft will be able to get a better handle on what features will make it into Longhorn.

"Three years is a long time in the development world. I would expect...more clarification on what we're going to get," said Gillen.

Microsoft's release schedule--and choice of features--is partially motivated by its Software Assurance licensing program, which includes the option to upgrade to new release as part of an annuity contract, Gillen said. Customers pay an annual fee to the program to get regular updates. "A lot of customers measure the success of (Software Assurance) on whether they get an upgrade or not," he said.

Indigo may come sooner
While some Longhorn capabilities have been put on hold, at least one major feature, a new communications system code-named Indigo, may debut ahead of Longhorn as part of a Windows Server update, Muglia said.

Indigo is expected to be released before Longhorn server debuts, according to Microsoft executives. The company has decided to make the Indigo communications software, which is meant to ease data interoperability between different systems, available on other Windows operating systems before Longhorn is generally available, Eric Rudder, senior vice president of server and tools at Microsoft, told CNET News.com.

"We have the ability to release Indigo Web services technology and have it run on Windows Server 2003, have it run on Windows XP client and just be included when you install Windows Longhorn," Rudder said. "We haven't decided on a date, but we are going to make Indigo available on other (Windows) road maps."


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The Indigo software is an overhaul of the communications "wiring" in Windows to work with Extensible Markup Language-based protocols called Web services. Indigo will include implementations of Web services protocols now under development, including reliable messaging and transactions, designed to make Web services-based applications industrial-strength.

Microsoft is still considering whether it will have an interim release of Windows that will have the Indigo communication software bundled in, Muglia said. The timing of any potential interim release will hinge on the progress of Longhorn server beta testing, which is slated to start in the first half of next year, he said. The beta period will not be long enough time to include Indigo in the "R2" update to Windows Server 2003, due in the second half of 2005.

Typically, Microsoft releases software such as Indigo, which is used only by software programmers, in downloadable development kits. When it ships as part of Windows, it will be accessible through WinFX, Longhorn's programming interface, which includes "run-time" software needed to run Windows applications, Rudder said.

An update to Web services-based communications software, called Web Services Enhancements 2.0, which will include reliable messaging and security enhancements, is slated for release "very soon," Rudder said.

18 comments

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If we only had another choice...
If only the Macintosh or Linux platforms were viable I would tell Microsoft where to stick it. Frankly, I am tired of the delays. I am tired of having to wait 3 to 5 years for each new major release of Windows and still have it lag behind what other OSes offer. I am sick of them saying it is going to do this and that and the other and then next week say well, it will only do half of this and half of that however we still won't have the OS out any sooner.

Do you think they will offer it cheaper since most of the feautres will be incomplete or not included at all? I doubt it.

I wish there was another viable option.

Robert
Posted by (336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give me a break...
"If only the Macintosh or Linux platforms were
viable I would tell Microsoft where to stick it."

Yeah, you're right. Even if the 2000-employee
company I work at is 100% using Linux on the
server and on the desktop, and we gross a few
hundred mil a year....Oh wait....
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
are you joking?
You must be joking, right? What do you find not "viable"
about Mac OS X? It's certainly not the absence of the
programs you referred to (Photoshop, etc). Just curious...
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
re: viable options
OSX and the macintosh is a viable option for what you
mentioned. The number of developers for OSX has actually
increased significantly in the last few years. Adobe has dropped
support for some Apple products because much better
alternatives were created by Apple in part due to developers
dragging their feet. Though the quantity of software for the
Mac is less than Windows, the quality is not. There are certainly
alternatives to everything you mentioned and to most Windows
apps. In fact with the built in X11 environment you have a huge
number of Unix/Linux applications at your fingertips as well.

You seem like an intelligent person, research the options. Much
of these touted features in Longhorn already exist on OSX. I can
name 2 freeware and 1 shareware program that can instantly call
up any document on hard drive by typing. I can get to any
document/application on my hard drive within 4-5keystrokes.
The type graphics system of Longhorn has existed on the OSX
since 10.2, 2 years ago. Stability with the Unix core is
outstanding.

Before people jump on my back and call me a Maclot,
fanatic..etc, I've got 2 PCs (one at work and one at home), and I
rarely use them because I couldn't do something on the Mac. In
fact I rarely use them.

Good luck. If MS isn't doing it for your, there ARE viable
alternatives
Posted by Olu070 (49 comments )
Link Flag
ROBERT!! Hear us, man! :)
The mac platform is absolutely viable. I run my business --
managing contacts, researching prospects, invoicing,
bookkeeping, creating promotional materials AND actually
performing my professional services on a Mac.

Don't resign yourself to dated and erroneous myths about the
Mac platform. Whatever it is that you do on your Windows PC,
there's a very good chance you can also do it on a Mac. Mac OS X
networks and shares peripherals with Windows systems, OS X
Mail can get mail from Exchange servers, MS Office/mac is there,
along with their mac version of Outlook, called "Entourage" (can
pull Exchange mail and appointments from the server). There's
Novell software, Citrix clients -- even Microsoft's FREE Remote
Desktop Client for mac OS X, which allows you to control a
Windows PC, remotely.

I urge you to reference Apple's Software and Hardware Guide
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://guide.apple.com/" target="_newWindow">http://guide.apple.com/</a> which lists 4,500 peripherals and over
18,000 software titles -- ALL MAC COMPATIBLE. The mac
platform is nowhere near as closed as many people think. As a
matter of fact, you can replace ALL the functionality of Apple
branded applications to the point that you're only using Mac OS
X and STILL have the same functionality via third parties. But, the
question is: WHY? Apple engineers wonderful technologies that
are built on a philosophy and set of priorities different than
Microsoft's; philosophies and priorities that I am confident you
will appreciate, whether you end up "switching" or not.

Not since the 1980's has there been a better time to use a Mac.
Despite Apple's quarterly market-share not outpacing the Wintel
market-share of QUARTERLY SALES, they are generally selling
MORE COMPUTERS than THEY DID in recent years. That means
positive user-base growth based on actual numbers, versus
comparing their growth to the Wintel's growth as a percentage (I
hope I am making myself clear, there).

As for Adobe? They frankly threw in the towel with Adobe
Premier in light of the significant adoption rate within the film
and television industry of Final Cut Pro. Premier was languishing
as Adobe rested on its laurels of having the big chunk of this
user-base (kind of like how Microsoft usually behaves). I;d like
to point out that Avid (another "heavy iron" video editing entity
for Mac and Windows) has NOT done the same as Adobe,
improving their products and lowering their prices to reflect the
new reality of DV editing. So, it's a contrast in attitudes.

There IS a viable option, Robert. I sit in front of it every day and
run my business on it. Every person's needs are particular, and
nobody should EVER count out the Mac platform unless they
have taken the time to benefit themselves with research
particular to THEIR needs.

There is WAY MORE to this platform than meets the eye or is
commonly believed.

Check it out :)
Posted by MacDuff (62 comments )
Link Flag
MS lags behind what other OSs offer
Robert, I feel for you and I understand what you are going through, you said it right, MS lags behind what other OSs have to offer. I, unlike you, figured that out a long time ago and never went past Win98SE. If the other OSs have more to offer then the choice is clear, choose one!
Whaaat? Linux has too many choices for you? That is what Linux is all about " Choice " and most all it will be your choice. Open Office will take care of all your word proccesing needs and more, most Linux users say screw PhotoDeluxe, they have The Gimp now, sorry I have been a Linux user now for 7 years.
Ahhh yes, Then there is Apple! Robert, I have been working with computers for over 35 years now and up until 2 months ago, I had never worked on an Apple machine. The machine I picked up to repair ( Are you ready, you Apple fans ), was a 7 year old E-MAC flavor ( orange ) system with only 32 megs of ram. I pumped that little puppy's memory up to max, it runs so nice, no burps, no bleeps, no blue sceen of death, I realy did not want to give it back to the customer. I even had it up on a dial up modem for over 24 hours running AOL with out a drop off, try that with a Winblows machine.
Yes sir Robert, I am eye balling an Apple I-MAC with the 20" screen and I say it's cost, is less then what I have tied up in a Winblows machine.
Yea Robert, I hear ya.
Posted by zeeone (3 comments )
Link Flag
WinFS is it already here?
It is intersting that there is some much comment about WinFS. Yes it is good but is it already here. Oracle release iFS some three years ago which from what I can see does the same and more. It is not based on the desktop but from an enterprise you don't want that anyway. To be honest I don't why people don't talk about it. Maybe because it will cost something, but how mauch is Microsfot going to increase the price of Longhorn?
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Typical. XP machines are bombing...
out on updates. Anyone who doesn't agree that Microsoft is responsible for the mess IT is in does not work with IT. It has become impossible to protect your IT investment.

The IT press keeps spewing MS garbage. Soon, the Internet will be unusable. There is a commentary on this sight backing up this claim.

Microsoft should be forced to recall all of their flawed software as it has put the world's economy in harm's way.

I don't care what idiot MS yes men think about it. Just keep using their products and you will be burned as well.

Microsoft is criminal. They have caused more damage than any other product developer in the history of the world. Quit talking about some future software and make them pay for the trash they have been selling for years.

Make any excuse you like, but the facts are that Microsoft and their products are the only thing costing the economy billions of dollars in damages.

Microsoft needs to be sued and then forced to shut down operations. I am writing to my legilators. And intend to make as much noise as possible. And all the MS brown nosers can keep that ring around your nose.
Posted by bjbrock (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dun be dumb
That has got to be the most ignorant statement i have heard from an anti-MS guy in a while. They have caused more damage than anyone else? Of cos, in the first place they make all the important software. They have been selling thrash? I have seen plently of crappier software that does not get half as much bad press. The only reason they appear to be thrash is because of people like you, who condemn MS on every single turn.

And i am NOT pro-MS, i am writing this on a Linux machine running mozilla. I just dun think people should just shoot their mouths off with dumb comments.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
I wonder what the future holds.
I use Linux for servers and Windows for games. Linux may not be as polished as some would like but there is significant work being done all the time. Take a look at Knoppix, its a good way to see where linux is without any risks. You may be impressed.
Longhorn is maybe 5-7 years away as promised. I wonder what Linux will look like then?
I also have to wonder what Lonhorn will look like. I remember Windows 98 Se, remember what followed it? WinDoZe ME the worst buggy bloated piece of junk ever released. I Like Xp, but I have a fear that Longhorn will be the equivlant of ME. Late, buggy, and bloated.
Posted by Kilz (85 comments )
Reply Link Flag
WinFS not dropped
I attended a Longhorn showcase by a MS rep. at Intergraph here in Huntsville yesterday. He referred to WinFS in depth as forthcoming in Longhorn in 2006. I asked him about this article claiming WinFS was getting dropped until 2009. He just laughed and said that there is no merit in that statement. WinFS is still on track according to their reps...of course, we'll all find out in 2+ years for sure. FYI: c|net
Posted by stormz77 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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