August 27, 2004 12:58 PM PDT

Allchin: Don't call it 'Shorthorn'

The decision to scale back Longhorn was spurred by developers and computer makers who valued on-time delivery over advanced data management features, according to Windows chief Jim Allchin.

In an interview Friday with CNET, Allchin explained that the decision announced Friday to strip an advanced file system dubbed WinFS from Longhorn was made to ensure that the new OS could be shipped in 2006.

"My goal is to have Longhorn the highest-quality OS we've ever shipped," said Allchin, the software giant's group vice president for platforms. "At one level, you could say, 'I've had enough,' and so we're on a path to drive up the quality level."

Specifically, Allchin said that when the company was finalizing Windows XP Service Pack 2 and updates to Media Center and Tablet software, he turned his attention to Longhorn and realized that the project's ambitions and time tables were not in sync.

Allchin indicated that PC makers and chipmaker Intel were eager to see that the next version of Windows would take advantage of hardware improvements--and that they could plan for certain release in 2006. He noted that the PC makers' concerns about Longhorn's release "had been ratcheting up" during the first half of 2004.

The winding down of the other Windows-related projects "gave me the time to sort of step back and say, 'OK, are we on the right path, given the feedback?' And I've had feedback of, 'Are you going to have an OS there to support the hardware improvements that we are doing? Are you going to help us on the deployments? And by the way, we love your vision...but can you give us higher assurance about when it's going to be available?'"

In early July, "I said to myself, 'We should change.' And we've been thinking through that since then." Allchin then met with top executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer and Chairman Bill Gates, to explain his concerns and then conferred with some project leaders about how feasible it was to extract WinFS from Longhorn.

Asked whether any personnel had been reassigned as a result, Allchin said, "We're going to be clearer about responsibilities...but no changes workwise at all."

Removing WinFS likely stalls, for at least another couple years, the company's longstanding dream of a file system that connects a file name with its contents, who authored it and other information. WinFS is widely viewed as a technology that will significantly enhance the ability to store and retrieve the thousands of documents, e-mail messages, music files and other data that are being stored on PCs. The company now expects WinFS to be in the beta-testing phase when Longhorn in available to consumers in 2006.

Allchin said the moves will keep the company from having to scale back WinFS and will enable Microsoft to implement it on PCs and servers at the same time, something internal Microsoft testers said was important.

Despite the removal of WinFS from Longhorn, Allchin was adamant that the new OS will contain enough features to be compelling for consumers and PC makers.

"There's no question--we made some trade-offs here. I couldn't do everything that everybody wanted from the customer perspective, and they were very clear in what trade-off they wanted us to make," he said.

Still, he said, dubbing Longhorn without WinFS as "Shorthorn" is "derogatory," because the operating system "is packed full of capabilities." Some of the features he mentioned were "great roaming support," .Net Framework 2.0, "new browsing capabilities," the "fresh" user interface, improved migrations and deployments, "more resilience to malware" and "a new photo experience."

Then again, without WinFS as a focal point for what to expect in Longhorn, Allchin conceded that people may not understand what Longhorn is all about. Microsoft has largely talked about Longhorn from the perspective of what it means to a developer and has yet to talk about the changes to the user interface and the more consumer-oriented benefits that would come with the software.

As a result, Longhorn had come to be thought of largely from the major architectural changes Microsoft was making.

"I don't think people have any idea what Longhorn really is all about," he said. "There's so many great capabilities that we're working on that we haven't shared."


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Not Shorthorn, just BOTTOM-LINE.
The decision to pull improvements from Longhorn is to improve the Bottom-Line. I would rather pay Microsoft a yearly fee for improvements than pay for an upgrade on a short upgrade cycle, which is the real pain. A six or seven year cycle is better, than a four year cycle, especially since XP just became secure and stable.
Posted by tbeckner (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
XP became secure and stable? When?
Posted by mvora (38 comments )
Link Flag
"Features" not necessarily a good thing
Programmers are always touting "features" and I'm sure
longhorn will be chock-full of new features - but will many of
these even be useful to users? I'm sure most windows users
would be more happy with a solid, well running operating
system than a bunch of new features that really only exist for
the sake of the marketing department or a "because we could do
it" programming mentality.
Posted by (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Highest Quality OS?
The Highest Quality OS is Mac OS X 10.3 Panther and will soon
be 10.4 Tiger. The Holy Grail of searching? That would be
Apple Spotlight. The Avalon User interface? Try Quartz
Extreme, hardware accelerated years ago. Why talk about it?
Windows is years behind and by the release of Longhorn, still
will be.
Posted by SteveMay (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Highest Quality OS?
"Windows is years behind and by the release of Longhorn, still
will be."

Steve, don't you mean Shorthorn?
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
This Apple stuff sounds great
When can I have it on industry-standard competitively priced hardware? :-)
Posted by A.Sinic (13 comments )
Link Flag
Saying the phrase "Windows Security" is like saying "Efficient
Government" or "Military Intelligence". These are called
oxymorons. Want a secure PC? Don't try Service Pack 2. Try a
new OS.
Posted by SteveMay (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Longhorn/Shorthorn... Time to Switch to Mac!
I was a loyal Windows user for years, and finally got fed up with
virus', corrupt files, crashes, errors and the blue screen of death.
And, using my computer was BORING! Should it be? Well, check
out a Mac and you will never be bored again. Using a computer
is fun again! I love it. And yes, YOU CAN USE WINDOWS BASED
SOFTWARE ON A MAC. And do much more than you ever could
on a PC. Everything clicks on a Mac. Why wait for Longhorn
when you can have Mac OS X Panther (and the new Tiger in 05')
that runs circles around The "NEW" OS from Microsoft. While Bill
Gates waits to please the 90% of the people who are on their
PC's, those who use Mac's are doing much more than Windows
users ever will. Make the switch and never look at the computer
the same wa
Posted by deanwaterman (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mac is more of a monopoly
Mac's are just wrong, you got to buy there system to use there OS. That's just plain wrong.
Posted by simcity1976 (136 comments )
Link Flag
Rush to release for SA clients
All those corp's that signed up for Software Assurance expected a 'bundled' upgrade by '06; if not, what did they pay for? And asking around *that* question could prompt interest from the PHBs in the Dreaded L-word O/S where the upgrades are on *your* terms instead of Redmond's.

So Allchin had to have *something* out the door or risk losing (more) business to The Penguin...
Posted by rkhalloran (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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