New roadmap for Longhorn

I was really disappointed when I heard that Microsoft were dropping WinFS from the initial release of Longhorn.  Then I read a bit more and listened to Jim Allchin, (the Group Vice President for Platforms at Microsoft), talk about the logic and sort of started to get excited.


Exited! That may seem a bit strange, until you realise that this indicates that Microsoft is actually starting to think responsibly about the needs to real businesses.  


“We’ve heard loud and clear from customers that they want improved productivity, easier deployment, increased reliability and enhanced security, as well as the many innovations we’ve been working on. We’ve had to make some trade-offs to deliver the features corporate customers, consumers and OEMs are asking for in a reasonable time frame,” said Jim Allchin, group vice president of the Platforms Group at Microsoft. “Our long-term vision for the Windows platform remains the same.”

Let’s take a look at what was really announced:


  1. Microsoft are going to ship Longhorn in 2006.  This gives corporates, developers and ISV’s something to plan around
  2. Microsoft are going to ship Indigo, (web services infrastructure), and Avalon, (Under experience), on XP and Windows 2003 as well as Longhorn.  This gives developers a much bigger target market, (more than 100M), for their applications and provides Corporates with a much more seamless migration as they can migrate to the latest applications on Windows XP, and then run them on Longhorn.  Of course they could take the opportunity to migrate to Linux but that’s another story.  For more on what this means for developers Microsoft have an Open letter to developers and a updated FAQ
  3. Microsoft has finally realises that the WinFS story needs to be a client/server story for corporates to take notice.  Its interesting that they have seen this as an issue worthy of delay though as the home user market is huge and would have been a good test bed for WinFS.  I suspect that the real reason they dropped WinFS is as follows:
    1. The Office Team needed to ship a new product that would work on Windows 2003, XP and Longhorn and they could not afford the distraction of creating a Longhorn WinFS enabled variant given its relatively tiny market.
    2. Other developers faced the same issue, no market
    3. So WinFS would ship with no applications to speak of except the Avalon shell.
  4. By delaying WinFS until the server side components are available, say 2007/8 the target market for WinFS, (which may be Longhorn only), is 2 years of PC shipments/upgrades.  I am not sure how many that is but let’s say 50M, that’s a pretty good market to got after.
  5. Because WinFS ships in beta around the time Longhorn ships in production developers then have a great upgrade opportunity.  Avalon/Indigo enabled application 2006.  New WinFS enabled application 2007/8.  If the application takes advantage of ClickOnce deployment then upgrades should be easy.
  6. Microsoft continues to state its commitment to WinFS, find more on WinFS here
  7. Finally developers will like this because the risks are much reduced, WinFS enabled applications will be built on top of a ‘hopefully’ stable operating system.  

Tim Huckaby, CEO of Interknowlogy, a consulting firm and Microsoft partner, said the staggered release could bring benefits to developers. “They had this one giant, completely new operating system. Now, they’re making it a little more modular, which makes it easier–almost like a phased approach,” he said.

It’s also interesting to note that the Open Source community believe they will be able to clone Avalon, Indigo and WinFS very rapidly in the same way that thousands of man years spent developing the .NET framework was cloned by the Mono project.  The time taken to create the code being a small fraction of the time to define the requirements, create the specifications, educate the market etc

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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