The long and short of Longhorn
- By John K. Waters
Its feature set is far from finalized, but Longhorn is expected to deliver stronger OS "fundamentals" (the so-called Base OS Services), an overhauled presentation layer, radical enhancements to the file system and major new features based on Web services. Simon Yates, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, summarizes some of the key changes here.
The most substantive change will be a database-like storage engine called Windows Future Storage (WinFS), based on technology from SQL Server 2003. The technical explanation of this change is that this storage engine builds on NT Files System (NTFS) and will abstract physical file locations from the user and allow for the sorts of complex data searching that are impossible today. Simply put, currently e-mail messages, contacts, Word documents and music files are all completely separate and accessed by browsing the file structure. WinFS is an add-on to NTFS and is essentially a new storage engine built on top of NTFS.
Longhorn also includes some major security enhancements, although many of these enhancements may instead appear in XP SP2. Palladium, a joint effort with Intel and AMD that is now called the Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), is basically a secure runtime environment for Windows and other OSs that allows a coming generation of software apps and services to protect the user from privacy invasion, outside hacking, spam and other electronic attacks.
The new OS will feature a new task-based (or iterative) user interface code-named "Aero," which is based on a .NET-based graphics API called "Avalon" that replaces earlier graphics APIs such as GDI and GDI+.
Longhorn also comes with a new communications subsystem, code-named "Indigo." Indigo is a set of .NET Framework technologies for building loosely coupled, connected systems. Although Indigo is a key ingredient of Longhorn, Microsoft said it will also run on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
Also expect to see a new setup routine designed to install the OS in 15 minutes instead of the 30 to 45 minutes it currently requires. Not surprisingly, the impact of this is that many older systems will need to be replaced to support the OS.
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John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached