Allchin Talks Turkey About Longhorn

Jim Allchin, group vice president of platforms at Microsoft, spearheads the software giant's much-ballyhooed -- and delayed -- push for Longhorn, the code name for the next generation of Windows. Allchin sat down this week in Boston with Industry Editor Barbara Darrow and Senior Writer Paula Rooney to talk about Longhorn plans. Allchin and Neil Charney, director of the Platform Strategy and Partner Group, also demonstrated Longhorn's upcoming "Visualize and Organize" search capability.

Allchin said to expect another preview of Longhorn code at WinHEC later this month, a beta release of both client and server this summer, with a developer beta to follow in the fall. The long-awaited client operating system is due by the holiday season and the server in 2007.

CRN: Microsoft plans to release a beta of Longhorn this summer. Will you make first half or second half of 2005?

ALLCHIN: It'll be early summer. We're on track for the first half as I sit here today.

CRN: How will you try to integrate laptops and desktops with SmartPhones?

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ALLCHIN: We'll have a sync manager in Longhorn to simplify that sync process for phones and other machines. It's [not ActiveSync 4] but a new version of synchronization, a brand new system being done for Longhorn and will have a whole set of wireless support so it can run more seamlessly between work and home and understands the environment.

CRN: Should developers be using APIs in the next Longhorn build [due at WinHEC 2005] or the formal developers' edition preview to be distributed at PDC 2005?

ALLCHIN: At WinHEC we'll give a build out of Longhorn, help developers through the transition of writing graphics drivers. You can call it a preview, it's not a beta. But it's dramatically different from the first preview. Nothing we have today has our new user interface on it. But we have some things to show you. There are a large number of people trying to get a jump using new technology already; we've been giving them that. After PDC 2005, we'll have a beta and we'll decide the [shipping] date. We're still on track for shipping by holiday 2006, so we'll be done before then.

CRN: When we talked to partners at PDC 2003, where you showed off all this Longhorn stuff, there was a lot of excitement. But now that everything has slip-slided, even die-hard Microsoft partners seem disappointed with all the delays and incremental releases. What's your message to them?

ALLCHIN: That's what I'm trying to tell you. It isn't. It's not incremental. The world, in my opinion, thinks this is perhaps the next version of a Service Pack. I think the world generally thinks that. It's not. It's a very big deal.

CRN: [Regarding the demo of Longhorn's Visual Folders search and visualize feature.] Is it based on WinFS? MSN Search?

ALLCHIN: No. It's much more about indexing. It's a much richer view capability built into Longhorn. Visualize and organize goes back to Cairo [an old Windows NT project]. The indexing technology that's in XP and in Windows 2000 is a follow-on of Cairo technology. We have continued working on that technology and it's used by MSN search but it's been in the operating system for awhile. [With Longhorn] it is dramatically improved. CRN: What about workflow? Will WinOE technology be in Longhorn?

ALLCHIN: WinOE Workflow won't be in the Longhorn client and the current path is it will be available on the server. Nothing here is tied to WinOE on the client.

CRN: There have been published reports of seven different versions of the Windows Longhorn client, including a starter edition, home, premium/media, professional, small business, mobility/tablet PC and some "uber" or developer edition.

ALLCHIN: I don't think we've said anything about that yet.

CRN: It seems you're trying to make the common code base more customizable for roles and yet you're expanding the number of editions.

ALLCHIN: The roles are on the server side. A [discussion of the client SKUs] is not on tap for me today.

CRN: One of the things ISVs and others at PDC 2003 loved about what you showed then, which shocked me, was VisiCalc running in it. You were running old, unmodified apps in a Window. Is that still part of the plan?

ALLCHIN: [Longhorn] will be even more compatible than what we showed there. I can take VisiCalc and run it here. No problem.

CRN: You mention that security is a huge part of Longhorn's design criteria.

ALLCHIN: It will be safe and secure. I use safe along with security because with security you think of whether the operating system code was done in a secure manner. Safety means you help users to protect themselves. Parental controls, as an example, are not something that has to do with an OS vulnerability or bad coding. It has to do with facilities that help keep someone safe. Deciding who you can talk to and what time, etc. Being able to browse the Internet in a protected window. Those are all areas we're focusing on.

CRN: What is the role of the user ID card?

ALLCHIN: Are you talking about Infocard? That's a project we talked about in 2003, and it's on going. It is not one of the core capabilities we're using for any of this right now. Will we make it available for people to use? On the current path, probably. It's still early.

CRN: Is this mostly a server technology?

ALLCHIN: It is a scheme, or a whole set of infrastructure basically to enable IDs. It involves some client code and some server code. [It is] a particular design that now uses Indigo for its communications but it's still too early to talk about that.

CRN: How about the secure start-up feature?

ALLCHIN: : You can tell by using the [Trusted Platform Module] 1.2, what the software is that should be run on the machine and being able to protect all your data. The end-user value we're trying to achieve is that if you lose your laptop in a taxi, for example, if they load another OS on it, they will not be able to get at your data. That is the end-user value and that is part of Longhorn and one of the steps along the way that is part of the Next Generation Secure Computing Base [NGSCB] that we've talked about for some time.

NGSB is the vision. The specific feature we're talking about is from that vision and is part of Longhorn.

CRN: And TPM is new technology just coming out?

ALLCHIN: That's correct. We expected it first on laptops, which is why we're targeting this particular feature.

ALLCHIN: [Another pillar of Longhorn will be easy deployment and management.] It must be easy to deploy at home, either adding a new machine to an environment at home or replacing a machine and migrating information from one machine to another or at work where an IT professional is trying to deploy images or to manage systems that are in place.

CRN: Is that SMS or System Center?

ALLCHIN: No, I'm talking about what's in the operating system. We're having it so MOM, SMS and System Center can all use this but I'm talking specifically about aspects in Longhorn.

[Microsoft's message will be that Longhorn is the operating system platform for the next 10 years.] In 2003, we talked about a set of developer technologies, things like Indigo and Avalon and we also want to make the point that there's a set of technologies we felt we had to get in the product now like IP V6, so it'll be native IP V6 for customers and be ready when they're ready. They don't' have to deploy it, but you could.

[For Longhorn] there will be massive marketing. The point here is this is a big deal. XP 2 was a big deal, but this is a really big deal. We will put a lot of money and marketing emphasis behind this and work with our partners to make sure there's a lot of opportunity for them.

CRN: Will we see IE 7 before Longhorn?

ALLCHIN: Perhaps. I would not make a commitment right now.

CHARNEY: Beta [will be] this summer.

CRN: But it will be part of the Longhorn release?

ALLCHIN: Actually, it'll be beyond. What we're putting in Longhorn is beyond what we have thought about doing in IE 7. There are things that cannot be done unless you have the new system.

CRN: Such as?

ALLCHIN: Parental controls. Such as the ability to do isolation of IE in a window. But I don't' think we've made any statements about when IE 7 will be out and it's way too early to make any statements about that.

[On other security matters] Longhorn will run as standard users, instead of admin [users]. Today in most installs, a large majority run as admin, so everything on the machine has full rights. Longhorn will run as a standard user, with limited user rights that can't impact the operating system or the user.

For example, if you would try to access something, you'd be prompted to elevate your privileges. Beyond that we have work going on to isolate even the new standard-use level so Internet browsing can run in a more isolated environment and, as necessary, switch from intranet to Internet in a seamless way. The probability of contamination from working on the Internet and having it contaminate the intranet is dramatically dropped.

CRN: Will antivirus and antispyware be in the box?

ALLCHIN: The current plan is to have no A/V. And we have said we do plan on putting in anti-malware protection. This IE isolation is a classic example of what we're doing here. A/V would come as part of an enterprise offering or as part of A-1.