September 29th, 2003, 09:00 PM
Microsoft to reveal more Longhorn details
Microsoft is expected next month to disclose more details on Longhorn, its planned upgrade to Windows, as the company looks to drive demand for the forthcoming operating system.
At its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, the Redmond, Wash., software maker will detail Longhorn's underlying graphics and user interface technology, code-named Avalon. Details on Avalon, a database update code-named Yukon, and a new Web services development framework called Indigo are expected to be the highlights of the conference, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.
Microsoft describes Avalon as "a brand-new client platform for building smart, connected, media-rich applications in Longhorn." Avalon will introduce the ability to create applications with a new style of user interface and greater resolution than Windows currently supports, according to the company. Microsoft in May said Longhorn would support a screen resolution of 120 dots per square inch or higher. With Windows XP, typical 17-inch displays support a resolution of about 95 dots per square inch.
Avalon is the graphics and media plumbing within Longhorn that software developers use to build applications. "Aero" is the company's name for the actual graphical user interface (GUI) in Longhorn that the end user sees.
Microsoft will be giving out an early preview, or developers' edition of Longhorn, at the conference. Microsoft executives have called Longhorn, which isn't expected to make its debut until 2005 at the earliest, a "bet the company" release of Windows. The software maker is readying Longhorn-related updates across much of its product lineup.
Longhorn's debut is closely tied to Microsoft's work on a new, underlying file system derived from the company's database development. That system is designed to make it easier for people to find information on PC hard drives and across networks. The software maker plans to introduce the new file system as part of Longhorn and of Yukon, the next version of its SQL Server database software.
Longhorn applications will sport a 3D appearance and will fully support digital media, which will make PC-based games more vivid. At the same time, Microsoft is beefing up the tools used by developers and administrators to install business applications on a corporate network.
Although a sharp, new look may be reason enough for some people to adopt the new operating system, Microsoft has yet to describe in detail the benefits of Longhorn to its business customers.
Some of the graphics enhancements on tap for Longhorn will likely appeal more to niche users, including gamers and graphics designers, rather than mainstream business customers, said Kerry Gerontianos, president of Incremax Technologies, which builds custom corporate applications using Microsoft software.
Still, software tools that allow companies to integrate media capabilities into desktop applications could be a big draw for some Windows users in big companies, Gerontianos said.
"For the last few years, companies have been cutting back on travel and doing more with videoconferencing systems, which they set up specifically for that," he said. "Microsoft has been trying to push that out more onto the desktop."
But Microsoft will still need to explain to corporate information technology managers and professional software developers how Avalon can go beyond sprucing up existing Windows applications to contribute to the bottom line, analysts said.
That's especially important given recurring problems with Windows security and Microsoft's ability to effectively distribute software patches.
"People want to know how I get from here to there and at what cost," said Michael Cherry, an analyst at research firm Directions on Microsoft. "Do I have to retrain people again, throw away source code, and start from scratch?
"Cool doesn't matter anymore. Give me the background on why it's important to me, not the 'gee whiz' factor."
Microsoft representatives were not immediately available to comment on Avalon.
Also on tap at the conference are more details on forthcoming improvements to Microsoft's development tools, including the Whidbey version of Visual Studio.Net. Both Whidbey and Yukon are due for completion in the second half of next year, with broad testing programs scheduled for early next year. Microsoft also is expected to detail several enhancements to development languages Visual Basic.Net, C# and C++ to improve developer productivity and application security.
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October 2nd, 2003, 03:05 PM
Hm, nothing mentioned by Microsoft on how Longhorn is going to handle security? Data encryption? I just thought that security was becoming MS's 'big thing'...fascinating how this article doesn't mention it at all. Almost sounds like Microsoft is going after the multimedia-rich Apple OS and its users...I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.