Microsoft Releasing Pieces Of Longhorn Code

In late May, it posted what it called release candidate for beta one of its Indigo Web Services, Avalon presentation and InfoCard digital identity management technologies to MSDN. All of this code is now slated to work with existing Windows XP and Windows 2003 operating systems.

Microsoft partners were glad to have the code. "I do our tech strategy looking at the stuff to ship next year, the year after and the year after that," said Scott Hanselman, chief architect at Corillian, a Hillsboro, Ore., developer of banking applications.

Hanselman is particularly interested in the new WinFX programming interface. "Early versions of the Windows 32 API were not very unified. Every group [at Microsoft] wrote their own thing, using a different API for sound and video, for example. It was very disjointed, unmanaged code. The [subsequent] managed code in .Net and the .Net framework is what I call 'managed spackle'—they put a wrapper around the older stuff to give us a managed view, but still not a unified set of APIs. With WinFX, from what I see, there's a third-generation API design—completely managed APIs."

Andy Vabulas, CEO of IBIS, an Atlanta-based Microsoft partner, is also bullish. "It's great to see Microsoft releasing this stuff early so partners can get ready and have their solutions ready for when Longhorn ships," he noted.

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Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has promised that the Windows Longhorn client will be available in late 2006 and the server will be available the following year.

Ari Bixhorn, lead product manager for Web Services at Microsoft, said the Avalon and Indigo builds include new functionality over the community technical preview back in March.

Indigo now has peer-to-peer functions to facilitate multiparty messaging and whiteboarding. Avalon, meanwhile, now enables developers to integrate audio and video into their own custom interfaces and also to load and run multiple videos simultaneously, Bixhorn said.

Some partners complain that the allure of Longhorn itself is fading as Microsoft continues to pull promised Longhorn perks forward into current releases.

Bixhorn, however, encouraged partners to stay tuned. "We're just scratching the surface of what's coming in Longhorn," he said.