Microsoft: Why Longhorn Matters

A Microsoft exec says there's a lot more to Longhorn than Windows XP Service Pack 3. Redmond expects this "big deal" will create opportunity, especially for new programs leveraging its peer-to-peer platform.

The doubts of naysayers aside, Longhorn is going to be a heck of a lot more than just Windows XP Service Pack 3.

Thats the view of Jim Allchin, the group vice president of Microsoft Corp.s Platforms group, who told in an interview that Longhorn is a "big deal"—not just for the company, but also for the industry, as it will create a lot of opportunity, especially for new programs leveraging the peer-to-peer platform.

Allchins claims come at a critical time for Microsoft, which is prepping the next version of its Windows desktop to launch by holiday season 2006.

A pre-beta preview of the Longhorn client, optimized for OEMs and software vendors building drivers and applications, will be distributed to attendees of Microsofts WinHEC in Seattle at the end of this month.

Microsoft first started talking publicly about Longhorn in 2003, promising that it would revolutionize information storage and retrieval; deliver vast improvements on the security front; and make huge strides in PC usability and reliability.

Last summer, the company was forced to excise what until then had been Longhorns backbone—the WinFS Windows file system—in order to meet its 2006 timetable.

Since that time, industry watchers have been casting increasing doubt on Microsofts ability to deliver a Windows release with enough compelling features to convince customers to upgrade from older Windows variants, as well as to stem defections from Windows to other platforms.

Microsoft is prepared to spend a large amount of money developing, marketing and promoting Longhorn as the platform for the next decade, Allchin said, adding that the Longhorn development team is also working toward creating an API set for longevity.

Longhorn will also be native IP Version 6 (IPV-6) from top to bottom, "so the day that a customer wants to go to it they can, without having to worry about some part of the operating system still being IPV-4. Were trying to produce something that is ready when the customer is," he said.

In a lengthy explanation of why he thinks Longhorn is important, Allchin prefaced his thoughts by saying this was subject to change, "because I may see other things that havent even made it to Beta One yet that are even more compelling. But this is what I believe right now. This is Jims view."

Next Page: Security, safety and search come to the fore.