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Longhorn, WinFS still just out of reach

Sep 06, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

* Microsoft’s WinFS pushed far into the future - again

Last week, the press wires were all aglow over announcements about Longhorn, the next version of the Windows desktop operating system. There were two prongs to the news. First, Microsoft announced that really, definitely, it’s-a-done-deal, Longhorn will ship in 2006. Secondly, to make the ship date, Longhorn features would be cut – especially the much-heralded new file system, WinFS.

Let’s look at these a bit more closely.

We’ll start with WinFS. I wrote about it last year, trying to get a handle on what Microsoft was attempting to do:

I noted that there was a raging debate about WinFS: Is it a “real” file system or an interface to the current Win 2000 file system, NTFS? I concluded by stating that in 10 years we’d still be debating whether Longhorn’s WinFS was either the first of the new file systems or the last of the old ones.

That’s all moot, since WinFS won’t be in Longhorn. And we still don’t know exactly what it might be. Some have called it simply a new name for Object-oriented File System (OFS), which 10 years ago was announced for inclusion in Win 2000 but never quite made it (into Win 2000, Win XP or Win 2003!). Maybe this is just a modern-day example of Zeno’s Paradox with WinFS as the tortoise and you and I as Achilles:

The announcement that Longhorn will ship in 2006 was greeted, not with the skepticism it deserves, but as some sort of divine truth revealed on high. Just as WinFS (or OFS, as it was originally known) has been pushed back year-by-year for 10 years, so too has the release of the follow-on to Windows XP (which is what Longhorn is) been pushed back with a remarkable regularity.

Early last month, some sources were claiming a 2007 ship date (but that was with WinFS included). Earlier this year, 2006 was the most often claimed time. Last fall, those in the know were predicting a 2005 ship date:

Of course, back in spring 2002 I reported that a new delay in shipping of the next Windows desktop meant that Longhorn wouldn’t be out until the second half of 2004:

I do sincerely hope that any plans you might have for deploying Longhorn in your enterprise are still on the back burner. Windows XP desktops (or even Win 2000 Pro desktops) with Windows Server 2003 (or even Windows 2000 Servers) will continue to serve you well for a number of years to come. They may have to.