July 31, 2003, 8:53 AM — Longhorn, the next major release of Windows, is "a bit scary," Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates confided to financial analysts last week. Scary to computer users, that is, because Longhorn products will be very different from today's Microsoft software, he said. But it appears the software is also causing some shivers at Microsoft.
Microsoft last year said Longhorn would be just another Windows client. However, it is now clear that the software stable is breeding a whole herd of long-horned cattle with a dose of .Net Web services hormones. "Longhorn is the next generation, it's a big bet for us," Gates said at Microsoft's financial analyst meeting last week.
Microsoft executives, at the meeting with the financial community and in subsequent interviews at the company's Redmond, Washington, campus, were still guarded about the company's strategy, but gave a glimpse of its plans. Adoption of .Net and a drive to integration are feeding Longhorn.
The operating system will have a new file system and come out in client and server versions. Around the same time, Microsoft will release Longhorn versions of the Office System applications, Visual Studio developer tool and Microsoft Business Solutions products. Also, the results of the "Jupiter" project to unify BizTalk Server with two of Microsoft's other "E-Business Server" products, Commerce Server and Content Management Server, are set to be out at the same time.
"In the Longhorn case ... we're absolutely trying to think about not just the next generation of Windows, but the next generation of a whole series of products," Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said at a presentation to analysts. "We believe in integrated innovation and we believe in the next generation of Windows."
Longhorn will have a "unified file system" called Windows File System, or WinFS, that will have "Web services as sort of a built-in piece," Gates said. The file system will be based on technology from the next version of Microsoft's SQL Server database, code-named Yukon, which is due out by the end of next year. WinFS as one of its advances is expected to let users view files indexed from various physical locations on a drive instead of displaying the contents of folders or directories.
Though a bit more open than before about its plan for a "big bang" release of new technology and multiple products with Longhorn, Microsoft has been mum when it comes to shipping dates. The company distanced itself from a commitment it made in May to deliver Longhorn in 2005. "We don't know the exact time frame of it. It's clearly many years of work that we're engaging in," Gates said about Longhorn last week.