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Windows 95 Again Anyone? Bill Gates Previews Longhorn.

By Gavin Clarke

Unveiling its next-planned Windows operating system, codenamed Longhorn, Microsoft is drawing a direct connection with its landmark Windows 95 in terms of innovation.

Microsoft's chief software architect, Bill Gates, yesterday outlined features in Longhorn he claimed will alter the way developers build applications for Windows and users run their desktop systems.

"This will be the biggest release of the decade. In a sense, this is Windows 95," Gates told the Professional Developers' Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles, California.

Windows 95 ushered in Microsoft's entirely new, Macintosh-like user interface and purportedly had a lower likelihood of falling over than its predecessors. The desktop operating system, now heading towards the end of its supported life, was launched by Microsoft on a wave of unparalleled hype.

Minutes before Gates launched into his speech yesterday, Microsoft ran a video showing customers snatching-up armfuls of Windows software in a shopping frenzy.

This time around, Gates, sounded a note of caution, even pessimism, inspired by economic conditions and bursting of the dot-com bubble. Organizations today, unlike in the 1990s, are scrutinizing technology purchase decisions, examining choices, and looking for ways to reduce complexity of new and existing systems.

"As we go into IT departments they're asking us, 'What can you do with software to save us cost and complexity?'" Gates said.

Longhorn is an attempt by Microsoft to simplify development of Windows applications. This work includes declarative programming and use of Microsoft's Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML), not to be confused with Transaction Authority Mark-up Language whose acronym is also (XAML) developed by Sun Microsystems Inc and others.

Microsoft plans to re-name XAML, although a name has not yet been revealed.

Longhorn's Avalon interface is built using XAML, departing from tradition by separating interface logic from business logic. This step is designed to speed programming and allow for code re-use by developers. Microsoft is creating a new programming framework, WinFX, that calls the underlying Longhorn services and which replaces Win32.

In a further step towards simplification, Longhorn uses declarative, instead of procedural, programming to automate creation of some basic application functions.

The creation of certain web services features has been simplified. Longhorn features a subsystem codenamed Indigo that plumbs applications into other applications and web services, by automating creation of transaction and security elements.

Indigo is expected to incorporate specifications in the Microsoft and IBM Corp WS- roadmap. Indigo will work across multiple transport mechanisms, Microsoft said.

On the user-side, Microsoft is updating its Windows' interface, moving to a gaming-style architecture. Avalon will use vector-based graphics that run on a device card, consuming fewer CPU-cycles for higher performance and high-quality images.

Longhorn's WinFS storage subsystem brings together content stored in silos and multiple schemas. WinFS provides logical views, programmatic relationships and synchronization between different types of data, so data in different formats can be searched, linked and displayed.

Gates called WinFS his "holy grail".

As with every Windows operating system, Microsoft is taking steps towards ease of installation and management. A planned feature called ClickOne deploys applications without rebooting; data about an application's performance can be stored; and SuperFetch identifies and stores an application's requirements.

Gates skimmed-over security features, including Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), to prevent unauthorized viewing of content, and creation of non-execution pages.

The first Longhorn beta is planned for Summer 2004.
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Author:Clarke, Gavin
Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 28, 2003
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