A Longhorn View for Microsoft

Microsoft gives a peek at the Windows upgrade.

Microsoft Corp.s plans for "Longhorn," the next version of Windows, include a new graphics subsystem, a new file system and a new security system. But, so far, users arent nearly as excited about the features as Microsoft is.

"The breakthroughs in Longhorn will really change the landscape that consumers and businesspeople see when they look at a new PC," Will Poole, senior vice president of Microsofts Windows Client Division, said here at WinHEC last week.

Users will also have to wait awhile for the new operating system. Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., said it plans to release a prebeta developer release of Longhorn at its Professional Developers Conference in October. Two separate betas are due next year, and final release is scheduled for 2005, Poole said.

The Longhorn graphics subsystem will include a new desktop composition system with a redesigned, three-dimensional-capable user interface, code-named Aero; animation effects; smooth window scaling; and advanced window translucency. It will also feature a new toolbox/ services stack, code-named Avalon, to power the interface.

But some enterprise users are unimpressed by the attention to graphics. "[I] can imagine very little improvement in productivity due to an updated graphics subsystem, but Id have to see it first. However, I think scaled windows are way overdue," said Tim Sagstetter, president of Kernel Software Inc., in Wausau, Wis.

John Persinger, an internal network administrator for Source4 Inc., in Roanoke, Va., said, "Simply put, its a waste of time and of money and of processor power. Graphic enhancements are for the folks at home, and I pity the company whose IT department bases a buying decision on that."

Longhorn will be the first milestone product for the new security framework, known as NGSCB (Next- Generation Secure Computing Base), said Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Microsofts security unit.

The goal for Longhorn will be to focus on Nexus, the software module that is the heart of NGSCB. It functions as a separate operating system kernel, controlling how a PC interacts with Nexus-aware applications, hardware and memory.

"We want to start with the deeper, more kernellike capabilities and build up from there," Nash said. "This is a new capability that users can opt into or out of and will ship off by default. Users have complete choice in this regard."

But Source4s Persinger is dubious, saying that security is a business opportunity and source of revenue for Microsoft. "I will never trust security from Microsoft as long as it comes from Microsoft," he said.

Kernel Softwares Sagstetter is willing to give Microsoft a chance and said anything that improves Windows security will be worthwhile.

Longhorn will also include the new file system known as WinFS, or Windows Future Storage, which will debut in "Yukon," the next release of the SQL Server database. It replaces the current file managers, NT File System or FAT32.

Gordon Mangione, corporate vice president for Microsofts SQL Server Team, told eWEEK that there is a lot of technology in Yukon that will allow Longhorn to do things such as transact across files, as well as have the system itself be a repository for XML technology.

"I really think about the next generation of storage inside the operating system. It is not just about how ... I file, save as into this mechanism. Its really about how ... I find information inside my system," Mangione said.