Microsoft to trim Longhorn ambitions

IDG News Service |  Operating Systems

Microsoft Corp. is sacrificing some features it planned for Longhorn as it works to deliver its first beta of the next Windows client next year, a company spokesman said.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft set out an ambitious vision for Longhorn last year at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in October. The operating system, expected in 2006, will offer major improvements over Windows XP in the way it handles graphics, files and communications, the company said at the time.

"What we told developers at PDC is the essence of Longhorn," said Greg Sullivan, lead product manager for Windows at Microsoft. "We are now determining the core work that we absolutely need to do and what the areas are where we can do some shaping around the edges so we do get the product in the hands of customers."

Microsoft is not cutting back on its vision, Sullivan said. Instead the company is clipping features and functionality, without taking away the core of the improvements it promised, so it can deliver the product in a reasonable time frame. "We're determining the work that will enable us to deliver that vision and figuring out what is not core," Sullivan said.

Longhorn is a major new Windows release, a "big bet" for Microsoft, Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said last year. Gates has described Longhorn as a "big breakthrough release" and the most significant release of Windows since Windows 95.

Sullivan declined to detail which parts of the Longhorn plans won't make it to the final product. "We don't have any specific details to share about the current plan or which features are in or out," Sullivan said. More details will be available before the release of the first Longhorn beta, which is planned for early 2005, he said.

Microsoft has to trim the Longhorn feature set to be able to deliver the product, said Michael Cherry, a lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft Inc., in Kirkland, Washington.

"Microsoft has talked about a lot of features and functionality for Longhorn, and as it starts to talk about shipping the product it is quite natural that some features get postponed or cut," Cherry said. "In fact, it is almost a good sign that they are starting to be realistic about the amount of work they can get done in a defined period of time."

Until today, Microsoft basically said it could do almost anything with Longhorn and presented it as a panacea for all Windows headaches, Cherry said. "You could almost joke that anything you did not like about the existing Windows was going to be fixed by Longhorn. Although that was a good and glorious goal, it was not realistic," he said.

One part of Longhorn where Microsoft might cut back its ambitions is WinFS, the new unified storage system that Gates referred to at PDC as a "Holy Grail." WinFS promises to make it easier for users to find data such as documents and e-mail messages.

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