Microsoft Ushers in Longhorn Era

The Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles will afford attendees a first look at Microsoft's next-generation operating system.

Software developers eager to get their first look at Microsoft Corp.s next-generation operating system will get their wish this week, even though final versions of the products are still at least two years away.

Attendees at the companys Professional Developers Conference this week in Los Angeles will be treated to the first technical preview and an SDK (software development kit) for the next Windows client, code-named Longhorn, sources close to the Redmond, Wash., company said.

But thats not all. Theyll also receive "Whidbey," the next release of the Visual Studio .Net tools due late next year; an interim build of "Yukon," the next edition of the SQL Server database; and an SDK for the Next- Generation Secure Computing Base, sources said.

The Longhorn client is not expected before late 2005 or early 2006 and will be followed by the Longhorn server and Office releases. Nevertheless, some enterprise customers are looking forward to this next phase of development.

"If Microsoft delivers the way it says it will and does much of the upfront integration, wed welcome that," said Dieter Reinersmann, CIO of Siemens AG, of Munich, Germany, in an exclusive interview. "Integration is always a challenge for enterprises like ours. If Microsoft can deliver the type of innovation and integration in Longhorn that it delivered in Office 2003, enterprise users like Siemens will be hard pressed not to upgrade."


Reinersmann said Siemens will upgrade all 330,000 of its desktops to Office System 2003, which was released last week, over the next year. Microsoft officials said the Siemens upgrade is the largest Office upgrade ever.

As for Microsoft partners, many said the company is getting them involved early in the process.

"Weve had milestone builds of Longhorn; weve actually worked on the SDK and so have had as much exposure as Microsoft is willing to give anybody outside of the company," said John Parkinson, chief technologist for the Americas at Cap Gemini Ernst and Young U.S. LLC, in Chicago.

"They are listening to feedback from the channel in ways they have not done with previous Windows platform releases."

Parkinson, who has seen the SDK, which will be released to attendees this week, said it is "wonderful" but that Microsoft has a long way to go. "Right now, all of the magic is on what theyve done to the SDK and how Visual Studio .Net rides on top of it. Even without Whidbey, theres a whole bunch of stuff you can do today, like practice with the code behind the structuring model."

The SDK includes a core set of APIs, code-named Avalon, for handling graphical and presentation chores, and a three-dimensional rendering user interface, Aero, which promises to be more intuitive.

Longhorn also will feature the Windows File System, or WinFS, which the operating system will borrow from the Yukon version of SQL Server, and Indigo, the Web services stack at the heart of Longhorn.

"These fundamentals are where all the magic is," said Cap Geminis Parkinson. "You will see quite a lot of this at the SDK level, which uses it all, but how [the operating system] uses them could completely change."

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