Monday, September 13, 2004

Re: Longhorn Features?

What do you think will be the implications of this. Ms guys are happy that there is a release date and non Ms guys are happy as they take it as a Ms defeat. Also is the Win API going to be completely ported to .NET in Longhorn?

Last year at their Professional Developer's Conference (PDC), Microsoft announced that Longhorn would include three technology "pillars" - a new presentation system, "Avalon", a new communications framework (I think it has to do with making web services super easy), "Indigo" and a new file system, "WinFS". And all these would be made accessible through a superset of the .NET framework, "WinFX". Essentially WinFX would replace the current Win32 API and further improve the current .NET framework to include (more or less) the entire Windows API as managed code.

This seemed quite ambitious. It would be the most complex OS ever created. I think they went a bit overboard with their goals, but it's fine - you need to aim high. But the problem for them was that they couldn't give an exact release date. People kept speculating 2006, then 2007 and some even said 2008! If you take the best case of 06, that would still be 5 years since the release of XP... worst case would be 7 years. They would be pulling the trigger on themselves if such a scenario ever came. That's just an insane amount of time between OS releases.

For sometime they had been talking about releasing the "Indigo" set of API's as an add-on to the .NET framework, which would work on previous OS's like Server 03 and XP. Now they have said that even some part of the presentation system, "Avalon", will be made available for downlevel OS's. They didn't give a specific date for all this to be available, but I guess the general timeline will be 06. They also said WinFS won't be released with Longhorn (which is also to be released around 06-07), but will be available as an add-on later on.

There are pro's and con's to this...

One pro is that there are millions of XP systems out there. Having these new capabilities on this installed base will be beneficial to developers. I'm assuming they will release an interim .NET version which will include these technologies and that can be easily deployed/downloaded just as today's Java or .NET frameworks. In this sense, I don't see any benefit to non-MS guys. If anything, it hurts them, since they were hoping that they would get a fresh start when Longhorn comes out - Longhorn install base will start with 0. Now that won't exactly be the case.

The one main con I see (I'm sure there are many others) is that there won't be a common base platform. Devs will need to keep checking to see if this version of Windows has Indigo or Avalon, what version they are running. If they don't have it, to download it or distribute it with their own apps. This is the same problem with .NET today. Not everyone has the framework today. And version 1.1 is 23 mb. Adding Indigo and Avalon will drastically increase that size.

Many people are also saying that if these are going to be available in XP, why would one upgrade to Longhorn when it comes out. They have a point. But I feel that Longhorn capabilities will be superior to what will be released for XP. They talked about three tiers for the presentation systems... based on graphical capabilities. I guess for Longhorn they can just default to the most advanced as it will be released with new machines, which at that time will include the latest graphics cards.

Finally, a lot of them are saying since WinFS won't be released with Longhorn that all the new search capabilities won't be available in Longhorn. I think that WinFS itself is not the file system. It's something that sits on top of the file system (like NTFS) and enables relational database like capabilities which interacts with the underlying file system. I feel they will improve the underlying file system itself for Longhorn which will enable better searching. WinFS will come later to better interact with it.

Having said that, I think it's a bad idea for MS to release Longhorn without WinFS. This is one of the main things people have been waiting for. And it's not going to be released for previous OS's. This is what will differentiate the Longhorn release. MS has been talking about this "unified file system" for a long time and it's dumb for them to delay it further. It should be in Longhorn even if it pushes back the release date.

What do you feel about the announcement? You think it's a major advantage for the Linux dudes?

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