Microsoft's decision to cut WinFS out of the Longhorn Windows client upgrade for 2006 is causing a crisis of confidence in the channel.
Partners are accustomed to product delays out of Redmond, Wash., but some say this latest slip of the storage system, code-named WinFS, combined with well-publicized delays to Yukon, is snowballing into a tremendous credibility problem.
"This is a joke. Shipping without WinFS, without this, without that. It's either Longhorn or it's not," said one angry solution provider, noting that Microsoft overpromised with Longhorn and is now paying the price.
Microsoft can ship Longhorn in 2006 without WinFS, but solution providers say it will likely have less appeal in the marketplace, hinder upgrades and PC purchases, and stall the development of new applications.
The loss of WinFS could also impact Office 12 development and hurt third-party ISVs, whose Longhorn applications may not be backward-compatible when WinFS finally appears, said solution providers.
WinFS is supposed to be the "super file system of the future," said Jeffrey Sherman, president of Warever Computing, a Los Angeles solution provider. "The lack of a major feature is going to make the Windows upgrade pretty much meaningless. Partners might have hoped that they'd get a bunch of upgrade business to Longhorn that likely won't happen now."
WinFS is a relational, object-oriented data storage system designed to replace the hierarchical file-and-folder system in Windows today. It lets users index, view, link and stack collections of disparate data"including files and folders, personal contacts, event calendars, tasks and e-mail--all from within the Windows user interface.
Microsoft claims it will showcase new user features at its Professional Developers Conference in 2005, including the revised 3-D-style user interface with high-end graphics support, IT management, fast full-index searching and single image deployment.
The quest for unified storage for Windows has been a twinkle in Bill Gates' eye for more than a decade. When the Microsoft chairman and chief software architect debuted the Longhorn SDK and alpha code in October, he declared WinFS a fait accompli. Gates was forced to eat those words Aug. 27, when the company revealed it would delay WinFS' debut in the client in order to provide a server version and to provide better support for database tables in its XML store.
WinFS APIs and formats will be supported by the Yukon database, Office 12 and other Microsoft applications, but the release time frames of those applications are not dependent on WinFS, Microsoft maintains. Still, it's not clear if third-party or Microsoft applications developed for Longhorn will be fully compatible with WinFS when it ships.
"ISVs will be rewriting their apps to use Avalon and Indigo and the existing NTFS file systems. If there are changes to WinFS, they'll have to make tweaks and changes," said Paul Freeman, president of Coast Solutions Group, Irvine, Calif., a technology services distributor.
Other partners don't expect to see WinFS integrated into Windows until 2008--or until the next-generation "Blackcomb" release--but they are unfazed. "It's typical of Microsoft like the days of Cairo," said one partner, referring to the long wait for promised features during the NT transition to Windows 2000.