No Longing for Longhorn

Opinion: Microsoft's Longhorn could be no more than a collection of security fixes. Microsoft has yet to convince us that Longhorn is something users really need or want.

Am I alone, or is Microsoft Longhorn pretty much an amorphous ooze?

I mean, weve been hearing about the wonders of Longhorn, and more recently the incredible shrinking wonders of Longhorn, since 2003.

The one part of the new OS that got me excited, the object-oriented file system, has been delayed, and the rest, despite Jim Allchins assurances, just dont get me very excited.

I am still not convinced that Longhorn is more than a collection of security fixes that, this time, Microsoft wants us to pay for.

Is Longhorn just another way of saying that the OS Microsoft has already sold us is so lousy and riddled with holes that the only way to fix it is to start from scratch and force users to buy new hardware to get it?

I do not consider myself to be a Longhorn expert. Like you, I follow the news and speculation, but I havent been able to fit all the pieces together.

Maybe I am particularly dense, but I cant state in a cogent paragraph precisely what Longhorn is.

I get stuck somewhere after, "Longhorn is Microsofts next-generation operating system thats supposed to solve our security problems but may require new hardware to run…"

Thats not particularly compelling, now, is it?

With the file system gone, Microsoft has yet to convince me that Longhorn is something I really need or want.

Give it a couple of years and (maybe) Windows XP will be secure enough for the average business user and Longhorn can be avoided for a few years.

But XP will never be secure enough for some enterprise customers, so perhaps Longhorn will exist in the space where Windows NT resided: A tool for really big customers that most others ignore. At least for the first few years before the technology becomes widely useful and well-supported by compelling apps.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Jim Allchin, group vice president of Microsoft Corp.s Platforms group, touting Longhorn as a "big deal."

If Longhorn requires new hardware (or merely follows the usual path of customers only upgrading their OS when it happens to arrive on new hardware) it really will create a bit of a schism between Longhorn users and everyone else.

Not that most users will notice since Microsoft hasnt really offered any compelling reasons why we should care about Longhorn. What will Longhorn give me that I dont already have? How does Longhorn change applications?

Id love to know, for example, what a Longhorn version of Microsoft Office might do that todays Windows XP version doesnt.

Will there be features that will make Longhorn especially appealing to home users? Will Longhorn solve network set-up headaches once-and-for-all?

Granted, its early. Longhorn is a year or more away. Even though the betas are starting to appear, these are aimed at hardware and software developers.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about Microsofts built-in Windows security system, code-named Palladium, click here.

Im not sure these people understand what Longhorn is all about. Further, most people consider it possible—even likely—that Longhorn will shed more features before it appears on users systems.

Still, it would be nice if Microsoft could be a little more forthcoming as to what Longhorn will do for users and why we should be looking forward to its arrival. Id like to hear things that would get me excited about the new OS, rather than the low-level dread Im experiencing right now.

Microsoft needs to do a better job—now—of selling Longhorn to users and easing our confusion.

Id like to be looking forward to Longhorn, but as yet have nothing to look forward to. I dont even think I really know what Longhorn is, and Im sure Im not alone.

Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers.

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