Preparing for "Longhorn"

In the previous post, a reader commented that they didn't see the point in “...wasting cycles on vapor that is at least 3 years out...”. At first, I was going to reply as just another comment, but I figured that my reply would probably be best elevated up to a regular article instead. This way I can try to clarify some of my rationale behind dealing with “Longhorn” at this stage, as well as providing a venue for my audience to respond directly to this topic.

Admittedly, there are many people out there who don't yet need to be thinking too hard about “Longhorn”. But at the same time, this is exactly when a lot of the rest of you are, or should be, needing to start planning on how you are going to be evolving your applications so that they can take the best advantage of this next version of Windows.

Application development is commonly not a “just-in-time” process. It takes months, or more often years, to produce a new application that attempts to directly address a consumer or business need. Even the “upgrade” process for an existing application can represent a significant amount of development and planning, far more then just the delta time between one release and the next.

If the changes coming out in “Longhorn” consisted simply of changing the spelling of an API, or adding a few additional parameters to an existing function call, then such changes could be incorporated into an existing application without too much of a challenge. For example, with Windows XP, we really didn't spend a lot of time prepping the developer community with details about how to get your applications ready for it, since there really wasn't a tremendous amout of work associated with making sure an application could use any of the newer features of WinXP. The fact that we are priming the pump this early on for “Longhorn” should serve as a indicator for how much is changing.

I felt that for my audience, I wanted to make sure that I was able to provide coverage of the core basics of what “Longhorn” was all about. So immediately following the PDC, I started with touching on each of the key pillars that we feel describe “Longhorn” to the general audience. With all of the new technologies and changes that are coming out in “Longhorn”, I could focus all of the rest of the episodes from now until “Longhorn” ships on specific, and important, features, and still not cover all of them. Windows Identity Services. Collaboration. The Secure Execution Environment. Custom Schemas. Synch Adapters... and the list goes on and on. However, I will probably instead start interspersing shows which focus on some of the features of “Whidbey”, “Yukon”, and advancements in the base CLR and .NET Framework itself soon.

With all of this focus on how big of a change will be coming out in “Longhorn”, I also want to assure you that we will continue to focus on compatibility with existing applications. I recently took my “Longhorn” development system and installed VisiCalc, Excel 5.0, QuickC 1.0, Tempest, and a number of other MS-DOS, Win16, and Win32 applications, and they all ran perfectly fine. With QuickC for Windows, I was even able to continue to build 16 bit applications on Longhorn which ran fine. So you don't have to be afraid that all existing applications will be rendered obsolete.

What you -do- need to pay attention to, is how “Longhorn” will evolve the users concept of exactly what a Windows application is all about, and what features and functionality it should be providing them with. Many application developers should be starting to think about this TODAY, and how to begin incorporating some of these features into their application moving forward. Just the schematized file system that WinFS will introduce alone can represent not only a big jump in the potential functionality of an application, but also a considerable change in how your existing application might want to begin thinking about data storage.

So spend a little time thinking about “Longhorn”, imagine what your application might look like on this new platform... or better yet, if you are a solution provider or software vendor, consider what your “competitions” application might look like on this new platform if you aren't there yourself...

Please add comments to this post as to how much time you think I should focus on “Longhorn“ in future episodes.