Microsoft starts to Talk about Longhorn again

Longhorn logoMicrosoft has started to talk up Longhorn again, so they must be getting more confident as we move towards the release of the beta.  Here are some of the main articles and interviews, and my extracts and observations.  My overall observation is that these articles show a very feature driven view of Longhorn.  Not at all the experience driven vision that was presented at the 2003 PDC.  Hopefully this is just because Microsoft are only talking about specific features they feel confident to discuss right now.  As the whole Longhorn wave of Operating System, Office tools and third party applications begin to be talked about we will see a real step forward in the user experience.  However I don’t think we will really see the vision until we see the client and server vision coming together and by that I mean.

  • Longhorn Client and Longhorn Server
  • Office Client and Office Server
  • WinFS Client and WinFS server and a WinFS integrated SharePoint Server
  • Longhorn Client Security integrated with the federated and peer group security features we see glimerings of with ADFS and Groove
  • Office Communicator and Live Communications Server extended with Groove like peer group collaboration
  • Groove like capabilities built into Longhorn and Outlook (Groove needs to disappear)

For discussion of some of the above, check out previous posts on Longhorn

First up is IT World, and an article Microsoft more open about Longhorn features

The initial comments seem pretty unimpressive:

Users will not have to worry if they will be successful when plugging a projector into a Longhorn-based laptop for a presentation, Allchin said. Also, Longhorn-based computers will instantly connect to a home network and recognise peripherals, such as printers. “It takes magic to figure that out today,” he said.

Then we get onto something a bit more interesting:

Longhorn will also have a feature designed to protect data on a PC. “We will have something called secure startup where if you lose your laptop it won’t make a difference because somebody can’t load another system on there to analyse your hard disk,”

This laptop security, feature sounds pretty good, particularly if “it won’t make a difference” is actually a real promise and there is no easy work around.  Also continuing the security theme:

Internet Explorer will run in a “protected space” so it can’t impact the rest of the system, while those guards can be dropped when connected to a corporate Intranet, he said.

Then some good news for enterprise customers:

“We have brand new technology for imaging that will dramatically reduce the number of images required,” Allchin said. This should help make Windows more manageable and reduce operational costs for businesses, a major focus for Longhorn, he said.

and finally a little update in dates:

The final version of Longhorn is scheduled to be broadly available in December 2006. At that time, WinFS, the unified storage system that was clipped from Longhorn last August, will be in beta testing, Allchin said. There is no target date for a final version of WinFS, he said.

Then Information Week with an article Building A Case For Longhorn

In this article we get more about the UI improvements, pre WinFS, which sound a lot like the functions we saw in the WinFS demo, but without the “hidden depths” that WinFS promises. 

Even without WinFS, Longhorn will let users stack, rearrange, filter, and create lists of PC files, including multimedia files and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. Improvements in data visualisation will go beyond today’s search capabilities, Allchin says.

I just hope that these features are more than shell deep, ie that they are exposed at the file system level and therefore available to all applications including the shell.  This seems to be the way that Tiger’s search is implemented and the unified experience that the Open Source beagle search tool provides.

Again the uninspiring “Everyday challenges such as finding a new printer or connecting to a projector will be hassle-free for users”, it would be nice to see some of the scenarios enabled by WS-Discovery being described instead.  Also the widely reported auxiliary displays is mentioned again “One cool new capability will be “auxiliary displays” that let a mobile user view, say, her calendar even when a laptop is turned off” I think this will be a useful feature.

Next CRN with an article Allchin Talks Turkey About Longhorn

Some interesting snippets came out here, I especially liked the mention of a sync manager that can “run more seamlessly between work and home and understands the environment” this is a key issue in a business environment increasingly driven by consumerization.

We’ll have a sync manager in Longhorn to simplify that sync process for phones and other machines. It’s [not ActiveSync 4] but a new version of synchronization, a brand new system being done for Longhorn and will have a whole set of wireless support so it can run more seamlessly between work and home and understands the environment

then a bit more info on the search capabilities, which gets me worried that its a visualisation level capability, not something backed deep into the operating system, we will see:

It’s a much richer view capability built into Longhorn. Visualize and organize goes back to Cairo [an old Windows NT project]. The indexing technology that’s in XP and in Windows 2000 is a follow-on of Cairo technology. We have continued working on that technology and it’s used by MSN search but it’s been in the operating system for awhile. [With Longhorn] it is dramatically improved.

Then a little hint about new Orchestration facilities, which I assume will be leveraged by future versions of Office and SharePoint:

WinOE Workflow won’t be in the Longhorn client and the current path is it will be available on the server. Nothing here is tied to WinOE on the client.

Then music to my ears, at the PDC we heard a good message about backward compatibility, illustrated by Visicalc, as an enterprise architect I know that applications are at the heart of decision making around the client platform.  I reported here how important I think applications are to Longhorns success. 

Then we have a bit more about Secure Start-up, its not clear whether it includes transparent encryption or not:

You can tell by using the [Trusted Platform Module] 1.2, what the software is that should be run on the machine and being able to protect all your data. The end-user value we’re trying to achieve is that if you lose your laptop in a taxi, for example, if they load another OS on it, they will not be able to get at your data. That is the end-user value and that is part of Longhorn and one of the steps along the way that is part of the Next Generation Secure Computing Base [NGSCB] that we’ve talked about for some time.  NGSB is the vision. The specific feature we’re talking about is from that vision and is part of Longhorn.

For me its clear that Longhorn must first succeed in the home so its nice to see this comment:

It must be easy to deploy at home, either adding a new machine to an environment at home or replacing a machine and migrating information from one machine to another

We know of course that there is plenty of work going on to enable users to run as normal users and to only access admin priv levels when they need to.  I achieve this today by running Windows 2003 server and having a separate Terminal Server session running as admin.  This web site explains how to do it on XP.  In Longhorn ….

Longhorn will run as standard users, instead of admin [users]. Today in most installs, a large majority run as admin, so everything on the machine has full rights. Longhorn will run as a standard user, with limited user rights that can’t impact the operating system or the user.

For example, if you would try to access something, you’d be prompted to elevate your privileges. Beyond that we have work going on to isolate even the new standard-use level so Internet browsing can run in a more isolated environment and, as necessary, switch from Intranet to Internet in a seamless way. The probability of contamination from working on the Internet and having it contaminate the Intranet is dramatically dropped.

sounds like SU on Unix/Linux! 🙂

and no AV 🙁

The current plan is to have no A/V. And we have said we do plan on putting in anti-malware protection. This IE isolation is a classic example of what we’re doing here. A/V would come as part of an enterprise offering or as part of A-1.

and PC Mag with an article Microsoft Reveals Longhorn Details

A few extra tit bits in this article, first the mention of a Virtual File System, so maybe we will get virtual folders at file system level after all:

Sitting underneath all this will be a “virtual file system,” helping ease application compatibility issues that arise from low privileges on today’s systems.

This is very interesting,  sounds like a combination of the Windows 2003 Server Volume Shadow Copy and Data Protector functions are migrating to Longhorn:

System restore will now include user data as well, and there will be a new backup system to protect your data and do things such as writing incremental file changes to another disk.

I am a very big advocate of optimising around the end to end customer experience, rather than optimising from a technology or service perspective, it sounds like Microsoft take that view as well:

Microsoft characterizes the different ways people use the system—at work, at home, or on the go—as “experiences.” I was particularly intrigued by some of the changes designed to make Windows a better mobile operating system. Among the new features planned are instant-on, wireless projecting of information, tools to help it better understand different network environments, and support for auxiliary displays (imagine a laptop with an LCD on the outside cover, so you can still see your next appointment even when the laptop is closed.)

Incredibly Allchin said – when referring to search – “This is the original Cairo concept,” he said, referring to an operating system Microsoft promoted years ago.”, well its not the concept I remember, I remember an Object File System, not an indexed file system!




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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: