Allchin Shares Vision for Longhorn, 64-Bit Computing

Microsoft's group vice president of platforms says he sees the adoption of 64-bit computing moving 'pretty rapidly.'

Microsoft Corp. used its recent WinHEC conference in Seattle to give more specifics about its road map for the release of "Longhorn," the next version of Windows, as well as to talk up potential adoption of 64-bit computing. Jim Allchin, Microsofts group vice president of platforms, sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli after his keynote address to discuss these matters and more.

In your keynote, you talked about a new technology called "Instant On" that allows devices and PCs to power up from a "sleeping" state in less than two seconds. Is this technology in any shipping products yet?

This is fabulous technology, and the work around this has been quite something. We havent decided when to include it in a shipping product as yet, but it will be soon.

What you saw was work that dealt with a whole lot of the peripherals, but we can get the amperage down to 50 percent if we do the rest of the work. We are almost there, and that to me is just a mindblower in terms of the impact it can have.

Microsoft will have been talking a lot about the potential pervasiveness of 64-bit computing by the time Longhorn ships. Do you agree with that scenario?

I see the adoption of 64-bit computing moving pretty rapidly, as I see few compatibility issues other than the drivers, which could slow it down, and thats another reason why we have to take a hard bet on it.

So, the compatibility is very good in terms of applications, and the second thing is the cost—conceptually, theres no price difference. If thats true, then wow, why dont you get it and make the 32-bit applications running on the 64-bit operating system faster?

Can you tell me what the reference architecture is for Longhorn?

I dont know if thats public yet. Youre talking about memory size, processors and all that? I dont think weve made a final decision, and I dont think we will until we hit Beta 1.

We have targets inside, and we may have gotten feedback on this from some select people, but its just too early.

You have shifted your strategy on the Longhorn client and server release cycles, and you are now developing them pretty much in tandem so they can ship close together. What drove the change in your thinking on that?

Internal efficiency. The alternative was to add a ton more functionality to the server, so it would have taken longer. But the problem was that it meant we would have run two different source trees with all the shared components having to deal with both, with two separate runs on beta testing.

The coordination effort means that the server will not have as many features as it would have had when we planned to release it two to three years after the client. But now you get all of the benefits, and there will be a synchronized system until the very end, where there will be a longer test.

We will take whatever time is needed to finalize the server, but it will not be years, though. Basically, well keep it one milestone behind, and, at the end, around release candidate time, well let it bake a little bit longer.

When will the Longhorn feature set be more final?

Around Beta 1, where well hand it out and see what people think. But we are very clear on the vision and the core feature set, and well make the final decision once we do the beta. But you will see a general push to quality beyond what we have achieved to date, and that will be across the board.

Who do you see as your biggest competitor for Windows, and has the competitive landscape changed at all recently?

On the client, there are so many to choose from. But the landscape has not really changed. Linux coming from IBM and Red Hat [Inc.] ... with Novell [Inc.] another fish in the bowl, and then theres Apple [Computer Inc.].

For us, its also the installed base, but I think a few of us have always seen IBM leading the Linux charge and is a huge competitor for us on that front and probably leads our top of mind.

But the other somewhat pure plays that exist, like the Red Hats of the world and the Lindows [Incs.], all have targeted areas where they may be strong in an emerging market here and a particular strength there. They all fit into that.

Red Hat last week announced a desktop offering that targets those Microsoft customers facing the end-of-life support for their Microsoft products.

The first thing is that we are very cognizant of the end-of-life aspects, and I dont have anything else to say other than we are cognizant of that and we will do the right thing. It will take them [competitors] a long time to clone the core technologies we have in Longhorn.

The bottom line is that it is competition, and I hope that customers see that we are offering great value for the price we are charging.

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