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Q: What is Windows "Longhorn"?
A: "Longhorn" is the codename for a major wave of
technology and platform software from Microsoft. This generation of
software will include new versions of Windows, Windows Server, .NET,
MSN, Microsoft Office, and other products.
Windows "Longhorn" is the next major desktop Windows release, which
will follow Windows XP; there is also a minor Windows Server revision
that will ship in the Longhorn wave. Originally expected to be a fairly
minor upgrade, Windows Longhorn will now include a number of new
features including a revised task-based (or "iterative") user
interface, an extensible, dock-like, Sidebar, and a SQL Server
2003-based storage engine called WinFS (Windows Future Storage).
Microsoft said that Longhorn would be a desktop-only release in
November, 2002, when the company told me that, "Customer requirements
dictate our release strategies and timing for Windows products.
Customers have asked that we map our server releases more closely to
how they can consume and implement advances and innovations we deliver.
Given the deployment cycles and budgeting that customers work through,
and given the significant customer interest in our upcoming release of
Windows Server 2003, we have determined that another major release of
Windows Server in the Longhorn client timeframe does not meet the needs
of most of our customers." However, those plans were up in the air
until mid-2003, when the company revealed, finally, that it would
indeed ship a Longhorn Server product as well.
Q: Will there be different Windows Longhorn versions?
A: Yes. Like Windows XP, Windows Longhorn will ship in different
editions, though they might change from today's Home, Professional,
Tablet PC, Media Center, 64-Bit Professional (Itanium), Professional
Edition x64, and Embedded Editions. For example, I'm expecting the
capabilities of today's XP Media Center Edition to be incorporate
into Home Edition or, perhaps, a high-end version for home that
might be called Premium Edition.
Q: So what will be new and different in Windows Longhorn?
A: Here's what we know about Longhorn at this early stage:
will feature a task-based (or "iterative") interface that goes far
beyond the task-based interface found today in Windows XP. Microsoft
has been working to move beyond the dated desktop metaphor still used
by most desktop operating systems; I explain some of Microsoft's early
work on task-based interfaces in my old Activity Centers preview.
This new user interface, or "user experience," is code-named "Aero" and is based on a new
.NET-based graphics API called "Avalon," which replaces earlier
graphics APIs such as GDI and GDI+, the latter of which debuted in
- Longhorn will require 3D video hardware to render special
effects that will make the screen more photorealistic and deep.
This doesn't mean that the basic windows and mouse interface is
being replaced, just that it will look a lot better. For more
information, check out my exhaustive
Road to Longhorn,
showcase and my PDC 2003
will optionally include the Palladium security technology Microsoft is
developing with Intel and AMD (see the next question for details).
- Longhorn will include new anti-virus (AV) APIs that will help
developers more easily integrate their wares into the base OS.
Microsoft will also offer Longhorn customers a subscription-based AV
feature that use AutoUpdate to keep your system up-to-date with new
- Longhorn will include integrated recordable DVD capabilities
and will work with every type of recordable DVD format. Digital
media enthusiasts will be able to copy video from a digital
camcorder directly to recordable DVD, bypassing the system's
hard drive entirely, if desired.
- Longhorn will include an advanced version of the successful
Error Reporting Tool (ERT) that shipped in Windows XP; the goal is
that only a small number of customers should have to report a bug to
Microsoft before the company fixes it and ships the fix
electronically and automatically to users.
- Longhorn will include a new Setup routine that installs the OS
in about 15 minutes.
- Longhorn will feature hundreds of new APIs that will let provide
access to the new system's features. The Win32 API from previous
Windows versions is being replaced by a new .NET-based API called
WinFX, for example. It will also feature a new communications and
collaboration subsystem, dubbed Indigo.
One thing that has changed is that the initial release of
Longhorn will no longer include the Windows Future Storage (WinFS)
relational database-based storage engine as originally planned.
Instead, Microsoft will deliver WinFS as a free out-of-band upgrade
for Longhorn users a year after Longhorn ships.
Q: I keep hearing that WinFS is a new file system. Is Microsoft
A: No. WinFS is implemented as an add-on to NTFS and is not a
completely new file system. Rather, it is a new storage engine built
on the NTFS file system.
Q: So what's the point?
A: Microsoft is trying to make it easier for you to find your
data on our ever-increasing hard drives. By adding relational
database capabilities to the file system, it will take less time to
find documents, email, and other data. After all, as one Microsoft
executive asked me recently, "Why can we find anything we want on
the Internet in seconds, but it takes so long to find our own data
on our own PCs?" In addition to the underlying WinFS technology,
Microsoft is also adding a new file system concept called Libraries,
which will organize like collections of data in Longhorn, regardless
of where they are physically stored in the system. For example, a
Photos & Movies Library would collect links to every digital photo
and digital video on your system.
"I should not care about
location when I save," says Microsoft VP Chris Jones. "Why can't I
just click on my computer and it shows me my documents? It is a
computer. It should know what a document is, what I have edited and
annotated, what I have searched for before, and what other places I
have looked for documents. It is not just documents on my computer I
am looking for. It is documents I care about."
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