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May Milestone for Longhorn Expected.

By Gavin Clarke

Microsoft Corp is expected to deliver its first draft of the delayed Longhorn next month, with some of the operating system's ambitious sub-system features 'trimmed" down.

It is belived Microsoft will release alpha code for Longhorn, the first publicly available code for the operating system, at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), in Seattle, Washington, between May 4 and 7.

Longhorn's final delivery is now scheduled for the first half of 2006, having been pushed out from 2005.

Directions on Microsoft lead analyst Michael Cherry told ComputerWire yesterday WinHEC is "crucial" to helping Microsoft accomplish at least one of the company's goals for Longhorn. Should it miss WinHEC Microsoft risks costing developers' goodwill and throwing out hardware upgrade and development cycles.

Longhorn is being architechted to utilize PCs resources that are otherwise under used and could be better deployed to serving Windows. For example, Microsoft plans a graphics subsystem, codenamed Avalon, which use PCs'

graphics subsystems to produce better-quality graphics and to remove load from processors.

However, Microsoft has warned features in Avalon, Longhorn's WinFS storage subsystem and Indigo web services architecture are to be scaled back. The degree of scale-back is unclear, though, as Microsoft itself has not yet reached a final decision.

Lead product manager Greg Sullivan attempted to minimize concerns yesterday, saying scale back would be "minor" but added it is "still far too early to discuss the final feature set."

By releasing Longhorn code at WinHEC, Microsoft would be giving OEMs, device manufactures and customers their first peak into the operating system's hardware needs. WinHEC is Microsoft's premier hardware developers' conference.

After WinHEC, customers could then begin buying adequately specified PCs while OEMs and developer begin their development cycles.

Changes by Microsoft to the basic Longhorn footprint after WinHEC, though, would require OEMs and developers to throw-out work based on the WinHEC code and to start again, while customers who bought PCs because of what they saw at WinHEC would be forced to scrap purchases, costing time, money and goodwill.

Cherry said is important for Microsoft to set-down Longhorn's features between now and WinHEC:

"Microsoft has to define at WinHEC what the base configuration will look like... [otherwise] there's a chance a lot of organizations will have bought hardware and will have overspent. They will be annoyed, and a lot of hardware development will have to be thrown away."

One feature that could be thrown-out is Microsoft's Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), the digital rights management (DRM) system-on a chip architecture planned for Longhorn. Hardware manufacturers who would have to support NGSCB in products like graphics cars and mice have not been building for the system in large numbers, indicating this is one feature Microsoft can afford to drop for now.
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Author:Clarke, Gavin
Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 14, 2004
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