Microsoft To Ship Longhorn in 2006 Without WinFS

Shaves next generation storage system to meet deadline

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Microsoft will ship its next Windows client code-named Longhorn in 2006 as originally promised -- but without the next-generation file system known as WinFS.

Instead, Microsoft will deliver WinFS after the next major client OS ships in 2006, Microsoft said in a press release Friday.

Microsoft could not say when WinFS will be available, but claimed the decision to delay the file system was because it has revised its plans and will now offer a WinFS server as well as a client. Microsoft said in July and reiterated this week that it plans to release Longhorn server in 2007.

The news was announced on Friday, weeks after finishing Windows XP Service Pack 2 and roughly a month before the final deadline many customers face for signing new Software Assurance contracts. Many of those contracts expired in July , but many customers took advantage of a 90-day loophole that extended the deadline until the end of September.

The decision to cut features from Longhorn to enable on-time delivery was not motivated by SA contracts, said Greg Sullivan, lead product manager for Windows.

"The scope and ambition [for Longhorn] we've had has been big and [has gotten] bigger. ... We didn't have a server plan," Sullivan said. "Now we're doing a client and server implementation. It's an expansion of the scope."

Sullivan said customers will get a new batch of end-user features, including single-image deployment, management tools and new backup capabilities in the Longhorn client. He also said Software Assurance will enable customers to get WinFS when it is completed after Longhorn.

"They will get WinFS but subsequent to Longhorn," Sullivan said. "We don't yet have a timeframe."

Sullivan would not comment on whether the delay of WinFS would impact delivery of other planned server applications that intend to make use of WinFS including "Kodiak," what was to be the next-generation Exchange Server. In October, executives told CRN that Kodiak may not use WinFS as they had planned. Subsequently, Microsoft scaled back plans for a monolithic "Kodiak" release in favor of more incremental upgrades to Exchange Server.

Microsoft also said Friday it would backport its planned WinFX technologies in Longhorn to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 in order to allow developers to write Longhorn applications and Web services across a mixed Windows infrastructure.

These technologies include Microsoft's planned new presentation subsystem code-named "Avalon" and an advanced Web services/communication subsystem code-named Indigo.

Hints have been flowing from Redmond that Longhorn features and function plans were shifting. It only became apparent this summer, for example, that the upcoming Office 12 release would support older versions of Windows as well as Longhorn. Office 12 was originally intended to be a Longhorn release in order to showcase the glitzy capabilities promised for that operating system, sources said.

Some solution providers were not surprised at the WinFS news. Many have expected Microsoft to cut Longhorn features to get it out the door, much as it has historically done on other big products.

Bob Shear, president of Greystone Solutions, a Woburn, Mass.-based Microsoft Gold Partner and application developer, likened the promised scope of Longhorn to Boston's Big Dig.

"This is a giant, major, continuous initiative. We try to listen as Microsoft shares plans about when they think they'll be ready, but I don't plan things based on projected dates [on something so massive]," Shear said. "That would be like planning a pizza place on State Street in 2001. You'd go broke."

Another long-time Microsoft certified partner was less forgiving. "This is a joke. Shipping without WinFS, without this, without that. It's either Longhorn or it's not!" And what Microsoft is describing in this press release, is not, he said.

He and others said Microsoft overpromised with Longhorn and is now paying the price.

For the news out of the horse's mouth, see Microsoft's Jim Allchin explain this Longhorn attack on Microsoft's Channel 9.

BARBARA DARROW contributed to this report.

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