Why you'll join the Longhorn evolution

Why you'll join the Longhorn evolution

Summary: Molly Wood, senior editor of CNET.com, recently asked why people would bother to upgrade to Longhorn when Avalon and Indigo will be available to WinXP/2003 users, and WinFS has been deferred entirely.

TOPICS: Windows

Molly Wood, senior editor of CNET.com, recently asked why people would bother to upgrade to Longhorn when Avalon and Indigo will be available to WinXP/2003 users, and WinFS has been deferred entirely. In her article, she concludes that "Windows is weak," leaving the door open for competitors to eat Microsoft's lunch.

It won't be an easy sell, convincing people to give up XP for something new, but that's the sell that Microsoft is hoping to make with Longhorn. As long as Microsoft is going door-to-door, hat in hand, why shouldn't someone else beat it to the buzzer?

On the one hand, providing early information about Longhorn helps to make Longhorn a product that better fits consumer needs. Microsoft's decision to push WinFS back was predicated on the problem of enabling the transport of WinFS metadata in distributed environments. The fact that it was largely tied to one computer isn't acceptable in the modern networked world, and alpha users told them that. Similarly, developers aren't going to write to the WinFX API if it means their creation can't run on the large installed base of Windows XP systems. Hence, Avalon and Indigo are available for older Windows versions.

On the other hand, people start to fixate on the "gee whiz" features (in particular, the big three--Avalon, Indigo, and WinFS) and use them as the tea leaves within which to read the future of the Longhorn operating system. If the amusement park moves in a few blocks away, why go to the amusement park across town?

I think this misses the essential reason people upgrade their operating system. It's a rare thing for a new OS version to involve a "revolutionary" change. Windows 95 was "revolutionary" in the sense that it inaugurated the shift from 16 bit to 32 bit. Windows 98 and Windows ME were "evolutionary" changes, in that they were simply OSes that offered more features than a previous version.

The "Tiger" release of Mac OS X is also an evolutionary change. I tracked down the feature list for Tiger, and I can't say that any of the changes make me open up the door and shout "wow, this is the most amazing operating system ever built." These are feature improvements, and they are good. They are reason to upgrade, but they are not revolutionary.

Longhorn features are revolutionary, a fact noted in the article I wrote shortly after the Professional Developers Conference. The complete refactoring of the huge Windows API, the use of .NET as the primary API for Windows, and all the unique features of Avalon and Indigo are revolutionary. Those features are being made available on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, but that doesn't make the features themselves any less revolutionary.

It just makes the upgrade decision less revolutionary, since you aren't buying into the product, which will have exclusive rights to Indigo and Avalon. You will, however, have a whole slew of feature improvements...just like Tiger. Many of those feature improvements don't neatly fit into the "Avalon, Indigo, WinFS" categories.

I bet lots of Apple users will upgrade to Tiger for the new features. I bet lots of Windows users will upgrade to Longhorn for the same reason, and Longhorn's features are far more revolutionary than Tiger's features.

So, I don't think Microsoft will have trouble getting people to upgrade, particularly as more of the Windows software world starts to use the Longhorn APIs safe in the knowledge that their creations can run on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Microsoft is likely to do the same thing Apple is doing to promote its new OS version, showing all those nifty new features and showing how WinFX software runs better on Longhorn. Furthermore, they will have an easier time of it, because the core features developed for Longhorn are revolutionary, even if some of them are available on Windows XP.

Topic: Windows

John Carroll

About John Carroll

John Carroll has delivered his opinion on ZDNet since the last millennium. Since May 2008, he is no longer a Microsoft employee. He is currently working at a unified messaging-related startup.

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  • Trying to be positive........

    WindowsXP did convice me to migrate....to Linux. When service Pack 1 crippled about half the machines I deal with the support was useless. When serice pack 2 made my proprietary software nonfunctional they were so busy at Microsoft support we were put on a phone support waiting list. I called Novell and got Suse Linux up and running long before my lot came up with Microsoft. I don't hate windows, but I'm enjoying my Linux experience (and Apple-Mac with MacOS and Yellowdog Linux.) There will be a Windows Machine at home for High end Gaming(Halflife 2 rocks!), but other than that Linux and Mac and FreeBSD and the like are getting my attention. Maby some day I'll reconsider, but not for Longhorn. (silly name by the way)
    • Oh, yes, Yellowdog, Red Hat and Suse are so much better names

      Longhorn is the project's name and most probably it is not going to be the final name for the released product.

      How Linux solved your proprietary software problem? Is it running now?
      • How about "Bluebottle OS"

        Its an internal network security proto. and it was developed on Linux in the first place (Didn't know that at the time) Novell made a RPMinstaller in Suse so Installing is a Breeze. That was the problem on XP sevice pack 2 the installer made for Windows XP/2K stoped working. And yes they are stupid names, but the Microsoft Express project turned into Windows XP. With that logic Longhorn will be Windows LH or maby Windows Horny
        • RPM

          did you ever thing of naming it Open Windows? if there is some fresh air on campus MS wouldn't be so Horny
    • I WON'T be upgrading to Longhorn. I wish...

      ...Apple would release on x86/Intel chips. I'd switch in a heartbeat.
      • If you want Apple's OS,

        Why don't you buy a Mac? They can be had at a low price these days.
        • Why don't you buy a Mac?

          Because real people with real jobs need to run real applications to run a business to make living. No toys need apply.
          • So tired of this argument

            Real job...science R&D and training development at a DOE NNSA
            National Laboratory....check

            Real applications....Non-Apple: Office 2004, Dreamweaver,
            Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, Eudora, Entrust, Meeting Maker,
            Mozilla, Netscape, Windows 2000 via Virtual PC (just in
            case...haven't launched it nearly a year) add to that iLife 05,
            iWork, Mail, Safari, etc. I'd say I've got just about every piece of
            software covered.

            My dual G5....hardly a toy. And to top it off my Desktop support
            staff haven't been to my office other than to ask me for advice
            on OS X. The various PC's running Win2k and XP are constantly
            being "serviced" and when my control PCs that run my
            instruments went down they took me "out of business" for over a
            week. I can't remember the last time I had to reboot my Mac.

            But you're right, I get no real work done with my "toy". :-/
          • apple in the workplace

            Apple-Mac has a majority of the publishing and music industry according to a mac rep I talked to when looking into buying a new Mini for a musician friend of mine. Not a huge fan of mac at my home but at work I'll use any 'puter that gets the job done
    • Way to go, bro

      I'm tied to Scribus these days, the OSS Desktop publishing alternative to QuarXpress, which is fully compatible with Linux on Yellow Dog, Linux on Intel-AMD and Macintosh on top of the X11 layer. I don't see how Longhorn is "revolutionary" and when I see all the trouble created by the MS windows machines here at work I wonder if these people would like to struggle like this in the future.
      But the OS one uses, most of the time is not one's own choice. I'm truly blessed that my supervisor installed a Mac G4 at my desketop, while the rest of the crew works with windows.
  • Who says

    click the OPT OUT button if you dare!
  • No LongDump for me.

    I went to OSX 3 years ago and will never own another copy of Windows. Period.
    • OSX already is the best OS on the planet

      I guarantee tiger is years more advanced than Longhorn,
      probably 5 to 10 years ahead, already. Hell OS9 was better than
      XP and OSX, Panther, is a years ahead of OS9. Now tiger will give
      the mac OS a 5 to 10 year lead in OS technology over Windows.
      • wile we are wishing...

        I just wish Mac would open up to the Gaming community and the Graphics prossesor manufacturers
    • He strikes again

      The mom and pop moron is heard from again.
  • I don't remember clicking on any advertisments..

    Then how'd did I end up with this Microsoft ad?
  • Like we'll have much choice...

    It'll be like XP. Visit any of the major electronics retailers (CCity or BBY) and ask about the main benefit of XP laden computers.

    Their reply: "It's all we've got"

    Fast Forward to 2008 when your XP machine needs or wants a new mainboard and you want to re-activate your XP. You call M$.

    Their reply: "we no longer support XP"

    Wising up, folx will hang onto their 98/2K disks (without WPA bondage). It's their last windoze' before hopping off the treadmill.
    • Make the switch to OSX

      No black box, no stupid activation schemes, and an operating
      system that is 5 to 10 years ahead of Windows, what more could
      you ask for? A more secure OS, more stability, no crashes ever,
      no viruses, and yes a smarter easier to use operating system
      with powerful Unix underpinnings, yes OSX is all that. Why
      bother with all those Windows problems, crashes and conflicts?
      Get Mac OSX Tiger tomorrow. All the Apple stores will be selling
      Macs and thousands of copies of Tiger. You don't need o accept
      all that crap from Redmond when the real deal is here now.
      • Sorry...want a more open platform

        Part of M$' problem is indeed MAC-envy. Specifically, they want a closed platform where they can dictate hardware configurations.

        This is the tail wagging the dog. As for Macs...that dog is already wagged.

        Next stop after 98/2k...prob'ly Suse.
        • SuSE

          I'm already in my second year as a SuSE linux user and not regreting it at all. Sure, I've spent some nights trying to make certain application compile or a peripheral that, subbornly, refused to work properly; but overall it's been a pleasure. I even serve my own website from home (not for newbies, ofcourse). This, from a guy who almost cried of joy the day Windows 95 was released. Nobody is perfect.