November 19, 2004 12:42 PM PST

Microsoft gives developers a glimpse of Avalon

Although the next version of Windows is still about two years from release, Microsoft on Friday offered developers an early look at the new graphics engine that will accompany it.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software powerhouse released what it calls a "community technology preview" of the Avalon presentation engine for Windows. It's not a full beta, or test, version, but rather an incomplete set of code that lets developers test certain features and pass along their thoughts to Microsoft.

"It's basically a build that has a couple new features that we want to test out with customers," said John Montgomery, a director in Microsoft's developer division. "This is just our way of getting feedback."

Avalon was originally envisioned as a core feature of Longhorn, the next version of Windows. It will still be a part of that operating system, but it will also be made available as an add-on for users of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

The main purpose of the new technology preview is to test Microsoft's ability to bring Avalon to its older operating systems. Microsoft has done community previews in the past, typically with developer-centered programs such as Visual Studio. The company created one earlier this year for its "Whitehorse" modeling tools.

Avalon is a key part of Windows' future, but it is something the average computer user will never touch directly. Instead, it's an improved method of dealing with graphics, designed to let developers write snazzier-looking applications.

So far, Microsoft hopes it will be able to bring most of the features envisioned for Avalon onto its older operating systems, Montgomery said.

The main difference is that newer graphics drivers in Longhorn allow for better performance and newer hardware. With Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, users might see slower performance, fewer shades of gray or less 3D animation, Montgomery said.

But, he said, developers wanted the support for older operating systems because it means they can write programs for Avalon that can be used by existing PCs, as opposed to only the machines that run Longhorn.

"The goal is give developers a consistent set of APIs," or application programming interfaces, Montgomery said.

The code Microsoft is releasing Friday is pretty rough, Montgomery said. Its release is limited to developers who subscribe to the Microsoft Developer Network, and the company warns customers not to use it even on a primary development computer, with there being every likelihood of bugs and a pretty good chance developers will want to reinstall their system once they're done using the Avalon preview.

A beta of Avalon is slated for next summer, along with the first beta of Longhorn. Final versions of Longhorn and Avalon are expected in the second half of 2006.

8 comments

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"The Redmond, Wash.-based software powerhouse"???
Give me a break... This is how you lead into the story of a
castrated Longhorn OS still two years off into the distance???
Does Mr. Gates sign the check personally or what?

By the way, I hear Baghdad Bob is still looking for work, seems
like he'd be a natural fit with your organization...
Posted by (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How lame
You go off on a rant because he called MS a "software powerhouse"? So what are they then, a mom and pop operation? They are a friggin monopoly, you just don't want anyone using a "good" word like powerhouse and not a "MS is evil" word like monopoly.

Your personal distaste for the company does not make them any less a software superpower. They are the biggest software company in the world.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Link Flag
How about YOU give US a break
They ARE a powerhouse, whether you like it or not.

This Microsoft-bashing is starting to get pretty frigging old. How about you grow up, turn off the Star Trek dvd, and get a lfe.
Posted by (127 comments )
Link Flag
Citizen Gates sees the future...
And it comes from the "secret" research & development department for "Avalon" (formerly "Aero" formerly " Aqua")

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/quartzextreme/" target="_newWindow">http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/quartzextreme/</a>
-Eyes wide open in Seattle-
Posted by (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
... and in 2 years they'll be playing catchup again.
When the "next big thing" hits, Microsoft, Dell, etc. will bask in
the wake of Apple's innovation. Back to business as usual. Call
me when you have an original idea, Mr. Gates.
Posted by olePigeon (39 comments )
Link Flag
News?
Microsoft today released the source code for its new Avalon interface. Experts are still trying to get it to run. One developer told us "its not like we mind that they have been working on this for 5 years and it still doesnt work.. we dont even mind that its a complete waste of resources they could be using for fixing bugs in windows. No what really bugs us is this damn yellow crayon they wrote it in.. this is impossible to read".

Microsoft was unavailable for comment.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Avalon in 2 years what OSX is Today! Get that miniMac now!
Why wait for a cheap OSX knockoff when you can get all that and much more + iLife on a state-of-the-art miniMac TODAY!!!

OT, compare Apples announcement to Microsofts horse-and-pony show at the CES. :P

And remember folks, Microsoft is a has-been, so don't be a loser!
Posted by chiwawa (8 comments )
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