August 27, 2004 12:54 PM PDT

Microsoft revamps its plans for Longhorn

update Microsoft is shaking up its plans for the next version of Windows to get the software off the drawing board and into PCs by the end of 2006.

As expected, the company on Friday announced a new road map for Longhorn, its revision to Windows XP. The changes--removing some features and altering others--are designed to let the company have a test version of the software next year and a final release for desktops and notebooks by 2006. A server release is planned for 2007.

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What's new:
To avoid further delays, Microsoft is revising its list of what will appear in Longhorn, the next version of Windows.

Bottom line:
The company is pushing some key improvements out of Longhorn, including the WinFS file system, for its release in 2006. The trade-offs are an effort to deliver other desired features on time.

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"In order to make this date (of 2006), we've had to simplify some things, to stagger it. One of the things we're staggering is the Windows storage work," Jim Allchin, Microsoft's vice president in charge of Windows development, said in an interview with CNET News.com. "We?ll still have rapid search covering the data just as we planned."

Microsoft's top executives had characterized Longhorn as a major overhaul of the operating system and stressed that its release would not be determined by trying to hit a specific ship date. However, as the project threatened to push out into 2007 or beyond, analysts argued that the software maker needed to scale the project back to something more manageable.

The software maker has not had a full release of its desktop operating system since Windows XP debuted in October 2001, although the company has shipped specialized versions of the operating system, such as the Tablet PC and Media Center editions. Microsoft has also been faced with a strain on its programming resources for Longhorn, with much of the Windows development team commandeered to complete the Service Pack 2 security update to Windows XP, which Microsoft finished earlier this month.

Longhorn was originally supposed to have three major changes: a new file system, WinFS; a new graphics and presentation engine known as Avalon; and Indigo, a Web services and communication architecture.

Microsoft is making changes to all three pillars. WinFS will be available as a beta when the Longhorn release comes out as a client. Avalon and Indigo will be part of Longhorn, but also made available separately for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

By making Avalon and Indigo work on older machines, Microsoft hopes more developers will want to write software that takes advantage of the new technologies. Had they been Longhorn-only features, the concern is that developers would have held off writing software until there was a critical mass of machines running that operating system.

"Getting 'Longhorn' to customers in 2006 will provide important advances in performance, security and reliability, and will help accelerate the creation of exciting new applications by developers across the industry," Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, said Friday.

The changes come, Microsoft executives say, following months of conversations with computer makers, developers and customers. Computer makers were said to be pushing Microsoft for a release that would not take until 2007 to deliver.

Doing that, Allchin said, meant taking WinFS out of Longhorn. The company now believes it can more fully implement the new storage concept and do so simultaneously for both servers and desktop computers, something that would not have been possible had WinFS been part of Longhorn.

The move clouds Gates' longtime vision for a unified storage system, something he has called a "holy grail." Such a system would allow people to easily group all kinds of documents by various categories, such as who created or edited them. Improved search, across multiple kinds of files, will still be a key feature of the revamped Longhorn, Microsoft said.

The company has already demonstrated a prototype of an MSN tool that will allow computer users to quickly search for a keyword from within files, e-mails and even e-mail attachments. Just as Web search has already become a highly competitive field, queries to local hard drives are seen as a key area for Microsoft to do battle against rivals such as Google.

Code warriors
The code base for Longhorn will be the same as Microsoft is using for the Service Pack 1 release of Windows Server 2003, an update slated for the first half of next year. Allchin said the decision to use that code base was made some months ago.

One of the benefits of that code base is that it works with both traditional 32-bit processors and 64-bit chips.

It will all add up to a better product for developers, Microsoft says.

"I personally know that this is the right thing to do. This product will be awesome. There is (still) so much capability in (Longhorn)," Allchin said. "Having us stage all the work that we're doing here...is the right trade-off."

Ahead of Longhorn, Microsoft plans a number of additions to Windows XP, including a new version of its entertainment-oriented Media Center operating system. The company is also readying a new version of its Media Player jukebox software as well as Media Center extender and Portable Media Center products that the company hopes will breathe some new life into the 3-year-old XP. The company plans a "Windows XP Reloaded" ad campaign that touts all of the new products as reasons to move to XP.

The Longhorn changes have been on the table at Microsoft since last month, Allchin said. "The early part of July is when I said to myself that we should change, and we've been working through things since then."

Longhorn had already fallen behind its original schedule. Microsoft earlier this year pushed the date back to the first half of 2006, saying a test version would be delayed until next year.

The revision to the operating system was one of the most complicated ones Microsoft had ever planned for its flagship product.

Gates unveiled Longhorn last October at a developers conference, sending programmers home with very early code, and promised beta versions would follow by this year. Despite the company's enthusiasm for Longhorn, Microsoft shifted a great deal of its Windows development team this year to work on Service Pack 2 as part of a heightened push for more secure software.

Earlier this week, Microsoft confirmed that in the wake of SP2, it would "revisit its priorities" for Longhorn.

Gates and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had long talked about Longhorn as a product that was not driven by a particular date, but analysts say that the time had come for the company to figure out what it could deliver on a reasonable timetable.

"At some point you have to decide on a ship date and a set of features that can hit that ship date," said Mike Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

Cherry said that in reality, there is no way to speed up a project other than to cut features. In modern software development, increasing the number of people on a project alone won't make enough of a difference. "It's not just a problem for Microsoft. It's a problem for software development in general."

Executives had characterized Longhorn as a big bet but had maintained that such advances were important, even if they took time.

15 comments

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If all three pillars are gone, what's really left?
OK, if none of the big three changes are going to ship with Longhorn, exactly what *are* we getting for our 4 year wait? It doesn't seem it would take that long to bolt IE into the core OS. ;-)
Posted by pkscout (81 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Redmond, we have a problem...
Micosoft monopoly empire is cracking under it's own weight & ineptitude. Trying to service all of is numerous OS's out there, fixing all the numerous security holes in OS/IE/Outlook, as well as, defending it's monopoly in legal battles worldwide, is not a good thing for consumers.
First you hear, "hold on LONGHORN's acommin'", then it's "LONGHORN to the rescue. It will solve all that is wrong with MS", Then "LONGHORN will be the best thing out there & far reaching into the future of Microsoft's vision."
NOW it's patch & repair, get it out no matter what & fix it later or "update" it later. Same old thing in a brand new box. Tell developers to wait, put out a GOLD version that is really a BETA version, then updates galore, then fix all the security holes & crashing problems.
Welcome to your nightmare - Welcome to Microsoft.
Citizen Gates, you need Viagra. Microsoft has become just that MICRO AND SOFT.
Open Source/Linux/Unix/Java/Flash is the future & Redmond is Jurassic Park.
- Eyes wide open in Seattle -
Posted by (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
xactly right
I think your exactly right.....

What's left?

Nothing. Another half-baked OS and not ready for Prime Time.
Kind of sounds like XP... kind of sounds like ME... kinds of
sounds like 2000 kind of sounds like 98....

Does anyone here see a pattern? ?
Posted by jltnol (85 comments )
Link Flag
lol
would you like some bread with that wine?
Posted by simcity1976 (136 comments )
Link Flag
About Time....
...for MS to finally abandon the overweight hog that Windows
has become. Apple was smart enough to figure that one out.
How come Gates is leading the charge of the intellectually
challenged?

Come on, Bill, wake up and do something right.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
foghorn=XP second edition
Sounds like foghorn is going to be nothing more than XP with a
few new features. Doesn't sound like it will be worth the $200+
M$ will expect us to shell out and only be able to install on one
computer.
Posted by Gerald Quaglia (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
foghorn=XP second edition
obviously some people have no idea what they are talking about. Only able to install on one computer? What do you expect? Microsoft is not going to allow it to be legally installed on more than one computer. It is an operating system. There are ways around being able to install on one computer, you just have to figure them out.

I know people that have.
Posted by knight2448 (13 comments )
Link Flag
Longhorn = Longshot
This is getting more and more pathetic by the day. MS is going to have serious problems getting companies to move to longshot at this rate.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Forget Longhorn... Now is the time for 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 way again. Mac is everything you could ever ask for in
a computer!
Posted by deanwaterman (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can you say Copland?
Man, Longhorn is worse than Copland was! And it was horrible!
What was it 8-9 years (if you count Taligent and Pink) before
Apple finally got Mac OS X (instead of 8) out the door. Longhorn
is easily on it's way there, as currently it's mainly consisting of
vapourware. Everything planned for it is gone! I guess every
company has to do this. Let's just hope Microsoft actually gets
something modern out the door when it's done. Apple should be
on Mac OS XI by then. They're gonna lose mindshare at the very
least.
Posted by rodgerson (2 comments )
Link Flag
shoulda called it
Long (in the) tooth
Posted by Yuzer_Nayme (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I disagree
you are not right about open source software. There is no mainstream support from manufacturers of software and hardware. That is waht really counts. Why do you think MAC has gone down other avenues. They were once proprietary, not anymore. They now have intel processors in there computers.

Linux has been written by so many people and re-written, and re-written. How about the security holes in that. I agree microsoft is a monopoly no argument there, but you have to realize why?

First of all it was a joint venture way back when, and when one of the two in the joint venture disagreed they went their separate ways. Open source is not the answer, because if it is easy for a virus to be created for windows, how easy do you think it would be for open source operating systems, since the code is available to almost anyone.
Posted by knight2448 (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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