Can Microsofts Longhorn Pull it Off?

Microsoft must improve migration path to keep developers, cautions's Steve Gillmor.

With Microsoft aiming for a "Longhorn" ship date in 2006, were all settling in for two years—at least—of messages from Microsoft about how eager we should be for the next generation of Windows and how patient we should be while waiting for it.

But Microsoft will have to do better than its done so far in convincing its developer constituency that the wait will be worthwhile. The company may have opened a can of worms when it suggested that developers should create applications using the W3Cs XSD (XML Schema Definition) language and then redevelop them on "WinFS" two years later, when Longhorn is ready. It sounds improbable, but that is indeed Microsofts message if you listen closely to top Microsoft development managers.

A key inducement for migrating to Longhorn is WinFS. FS means future storage, and the scheme is a new file storage system that will make it easier to store and find data. Instead of leveraging the XSD standard, Microsoft designers rolled a new schema language to handle WinFS new capabilities. Don Box, co-author of the original SOAP specification and now a key architect of Microsofts XML Web services stack and Indigo messaging bus system, explained why: "It would be a mistake to bastardize XSD to describe something it wasnt intended to describe."

As for suggestions to keep XSD and augment it with WinFS extensions, Box takes no prisoners: "XML Schema has already eclipsed C++ in terms of complexity. Adding yet another layer on top to model WinFS-isms not directly expressible would only make matters worse."

Clearly, Microsoft wants developers to create tomorrows applications on Longhorn and WinFS. Right?

So why did Dare Obasanjo, program manager for .Net Framework XML schema technologies, have this to say: "The W3C XML Schema Definition language is far from being targeted for elimination from Microsofts actively developed portfolio." Obasanjo listed a dozen Microsoft products using XSD, including "Yukon," Visual Studio .Net, "Indigo," Word, Excel and InfoPath.