In-Depth

The basics of Longhorn

Longhorn will combine a new Windows platform with a new software development platform that expands on and, in some ways, changes the .NET Framework.

Avalon, one of the core elements, will provide a unified framework for developing user interfaces that will replace Windows client technology, some of which is more than a decade old. Consolidating all the elements necessary for depicting text documents, screen widgets or controls, graphics, images, audio and video, Avalon should simplify tasks such as resizing text for video displays and vice versa. Avalon also adds Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML), an XML-based language that can be used as a simpler alternative to conventional languages like C# or Visual Basic for developing user interfaces. Although Microsoft will continue to support the WinForm and WebForm clients introduced by the .NET Framework three years ago, Avalon becomes the company’s future direction.

Indigo, the other major element, implements much of the communications functionality of the Enterprise Service Buses of the Java world natively inside Windows. By grouping functions that specify how a Web service is to be sent, the required level of performance and reliability, and the security to enforce, Indigo will reduce the coding for deploying Web services.

Although Avalon and Indigo were originally slated for Longhorn, Microsoft recently announced that these features would be made available for Windows XP and Windows 2003 Server sometime after the initial Longhorn OS release.

However, one of the most ambitious elements of Longhorn, WinFS, won’t make the initial cut. Adding a relational database layer to Windows’ existing NTFS file system, WinFS is supposed to track meta data to various attributes of a file, such as file name, author, subject and type. Consequently, data from a hard disk could be accessed by what it is, rather than from the folder in which it resides. Conceivably, you could associate all e-mails, Word documents, spreadsheets and rich media files that might be associated with a particular person. As originally envisioned, WinFS would provide this logical viewing capability, not only on a single end user’s hard drive, but across the shared drives of an entire workgroup.

That was the vision. For now, Microsoft is not saying when it will release WinFS. In fact, Microsoft is already backing away from WinFS, initially postponing the promised server version. Some wonder whether the latest postponement might lead to abandonment. Some users may recall Cairo, the code name for a next-generation Windows platform based around an object-oriented file system that was supposed to debut with Windows NT 5.0 in 1997. For the record, NT 5.0 became Windows 2000, which was released in February 2000 without any trace of Cairo.

Please see the following related stories: “Longhorn debuts, but few pay attention” by Tony Baer “A look forward, a look back ” by Tony Baer

About the Author

Tony Baer is principal with onStrategies, a New York-based consulting firm, and editor of Computer Finance, a monthly journal on IT economics. He can be reached via e-mail at tbaer@tbaer.com.

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