Mary Jo Foley at Microsoft Watch has called the end of August cutbacks in Longhorn the “Gutting of Longhorn”. It does appear that two major changes are on tap. WinFS, the Yukon/SQLServer based filesystem will not be a part of either Longhorn 2006 or Longhorn Server 2007. Big opportunity loss here. Now there is really no reason to switch to Longhorn from a functional enhancement standpoint. I have said it before and it bears repeating – having a databased filesystem is such a natural enhancement that brings widespread benefits to desktop and especially Office apps that is hard to match even with XML/XQuery based stand-ins.
Why was WinFS dropped ? I suspect the December 2003 fiat from Steve Ballmer that Yukon would be the MS systems database strategy just did not patch over the rift that has plagued 1 Microsoft Way over database and OS strategy. This is like the Old English War of the Roses. Yes, on a fundamental architectural level – Redmond is a House Divided.
Avalons status is even more problematic. Reading all acounts available so far this party cannot make heads nor tails as to what is in and what is not in the new King Authors Court. Now we have said before that ISVs would not welcome changes that would require reworking not just all their fundamental Win API work but also to start from scratch with all their device drivers as well as envisioned in LongGoneHorn. Here is my guess as to what will happen. XAML stays as the new Windows resource file format. Rationalization of the mutually independent WinForms, WebForms, VBAForms, the new Compact Framework forms and InfoPathForms will be a patchwork.
The 3D GUI with transparent Windows will not replace the existing API but will tacked on for better or for worse. The existing Win API will have some functions phased out (likely deprecated but possibly just dropped) . But multimedia, voice and possible gesture/handwriting APIs may become full API citizens. Media Center software is becoming very important to secure the desktop against Linux, MobilePhone/Java and/or the Chinese OS incursions.
But this is really jump ball time on the Redmond campus – and development teams with working code and demonstrable plans will get playing time in King Authors Court. However, it does note bode well for the Windows franchise as once again Redmond abandons a well-described roadpath and yet again throws up a “what meets the deadline” concoction for an OS. So expect to have to drink a gosh awful lot of English tea and then decipher the remaining leaves over the next two years to figure whats going to come out of the Death March and Commedia Del Arte known as LongGoneHorn.