Its About Time and Space

In his first column, new Messaging and Collaboration editor Steve Gillmor fires up the time machine, and imagines a far-off future where Longhorn has finally shipped.

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Remember the .Net rollout? Hailstorm? .Net Insecurity Day? Theres nothing quite like the rush you get from a Microsoft all-hands-on-deck launch. For just a few hours or days, you get to sit in Bills chair, see what Bill sees, knowing it will all happen eventually -- given enough time and hard work. Microsofts Professional Developer Conference (PDC) this week was as big, or bigger than those launches.

As sure as the seasons turn and the network sweeps come and go, Microsoft will have enough money to implement whatever it wants. Its market dominance virtually guarantees Microsofts eventual success, subject only to the small possibility of more government anti-trust action or the the somewhat larger risk posed by All The Other Guys.

As the smoke begins to clear from Los Angeles and this weeks, I find myself longing for a good old-fashioned time machine. One I could jump into and fast forward to 2006 or 8, and view this weeks Longhorn unveiling in the context of What Really Happened.

From the future of 2008, heres what Id see. The view would be pretty much as Bill called it: a dynamic array of platform services encompassing real-time presence, event notification, resource virtualization, and personalized declarative portfolio management. But I wouldnt be the only one with a time machine – according to my crystal ball, Microsoft will invent one too – sometime in 2005 or 2006. But they keep it a deep, dark secret – at least for a while.

Lets click on the Timeline and review the History:

2004: Yukon ships on December 31 at 11:59, with SP1 promised for June. Apple ships iChat Server, iCast, and $130 Panther upgrade with RSS information router console. Sun buys WebMethods. Bush reelected.

2005: Bush recalled on January 21. Maria Shriver elected. Sun ships free desktop client based on Looking Glass but renamed The Java Visual System. Client includes RSS-coordinated componentized OpenOffice modules. Miguel de Icaza ships Mono framework abstracting Avalon XAML calls to the Sun/BEA objects. Sun and BEA merge. Yukon SP1 ships.

2006: Longhorn Beta ships. Apple Records buys Apple Computer, forcing Microsoft to adopt Apple DRM model to get access to Beatles catalogue. Microsoft revs Office System, ships free InfoPath runtime to recapture RSS InfoRouter market share. Technorati buys Google.

2007: Ballmer ousted after revealing details of Longhorn Time Machine in eWeek interview. Allchin denies using Time Machine to alter Linux source code to match SCO lawsuit. Longhorn release date set for New Years Eve at Midnight. Allchin says hes "absolutely certain it shipped, uh, will ship on that date." President Shriver reelected.

2008: – PDC opens in Los Angeles as floods rage. In final keynote as Chief Software Architect, Gates announces personal Time Machine will be bundled with Office System. Microsoft catchphrase changes to "When do you want to go today?"

Of course, none of this could happen, because as we all know, there is no such thing as a free runtime. Seriously though, time travel and teleportation is what Longhorn is all about—and Bills vision is shared by many of technologys captains. From wireless to RSS to video-conferencing, we are projecting ourselves more and more efficiently out into the information storm.


I didnt make it to the PDC this time, spoiled as I am by my NetNewsWire RSS router, my iSight/iChat peer network, my GPRS/Bluetooth camera phone, and my WiFi Powerbook. It may not yet be the seamless mesh of services Bill proffered on the PDC stage, but its getting very close. I virtually attended Dave Winers BloggerCon several weeks ago from the comfort of this years model of a time machine, as IM, RSS, video conferencing and streaming webcasts collaborated to put me there, even though I was here.

If you can live with a new-style 80/20 rule (80% of the functionality at 20% of the cost ) you can have most of Longhorns promise today. Sure, Bill will get there. And some of us will be waiting for him when he shows up – with a few more bucks in our pockets, to boot.

Whats Steve talking about? How can you get 80% of Longhorn today?

Join him in our discussion forum and find out!