At Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2003 in Los Angeles yesterday, Microsoft executives at long last unveiled the key features in Longhorn, the next major Windows version. As first revealed on the SuperSite for Windows, Longhorn will feature a media-rich UI (code-named Aero) backed by a new presentation layer (code-named Avalon). A new storage engine called Windows Future Storage (WinFS) will finally virtualize data in Windows, making it easier to find, manage, and work with documents, media, contacts, and other data. And a new Microsoft .NET-based Web services architecture (code-named Indigo) will help Longhorn-based systems communicate with each other and with the outside world.
"It's an exciting time to be a software developer," said Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates during his Monday morning keynote address. "Continuing hardware advances, powerful tools, and the potential of anything on the Internet to become a building block all make it a great time to do pioneering work. Microsoft is investing heavily to make Windows the optimal platform for developers who want to build on this next wave of innovation." Microsoft Group Vice President Jim Allchin also presented a keynote address, in which he detailed the ways developers can use Avalon, Indigo, and WinFS, along with next-generation versions of Visual Studio .NET, to build stunning Longhorn applications with a minimum of coding.
For developers at PDC 2003, yesterday's keynote addresses provided the first real bits of information about how Longhorn's features will come together to help them build next-generation applications, servers, and services that run on the Longhorn platform. A new programming model called WinFX will replace earlier models such as Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC) and Win32, Microsoft executives noted, giving developers the simplest and easiest-to-deploy applications possible. WinFX is based on .NET managed-code technologies.
Both Allchin and Gates noted that Longhorn is still a work in progress, although neither specified a final release date. Allchin did say that Longhorn Beta 1 will ship in the second half of 2004, which suggests that a 2005 release date is still possible.