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Microsoft Releases Avalon Technology Preview for Windows Server 2003, Windows XP

Late Friday, Microsoft quietly released to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Subscriber Downloads a technology preview of the Avalon presentation technologies portion of the WinFX software development kit (SDK). The preview contains some Avalon features that Microsoft designed solely for Longhorn (the next major Windows release) but will also run on Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. Microsoft was quick to warn developers that the release isn't a full beta version but is an early look at Avalon technology only, one that the company hopes will garner a lot of feedback.
"This is a 'Technology Preview,' or rough bits," Chris Anderson, a software architect on the Avalon team said Friday in his blog (see the first URL below). "I don't recommend \[that\] you put this on your primary development machine. You need a pretty beefy machine to run the bits. This build will run on Windows XP. This build will not run on \[the\] PDC or WinHEC Longhorn builds. This is not the final API set, XAML spec, or anything else--this is a 'Technology Preview.'"
Microsoft originally envisioned Avalon as one of the core Longhorn pillars, along with related technologies such as Aero (the Longhorn UI), WinFS (a relational database-based storage engine), and Indigo (a Web services infrastructure). But in third quarter 2004, Microsoft decided to back-port both Avalon and Indigo--and the WinFX programming libraries used to access them--to Windows 2003 and XP. I've written about this decision and its ramifications in a detailed article on the SuperSite for Windows (see the second URL below).
This technology preview isn't the first time that Microsoft has made Avalon code publicly available. The first public release took place in October 2003 at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC), when Microsoft first introduced working Longhorn code to programmers. Then, earlier this year at Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2004, the company released a second public release of Avalon code. But Friday's preview is the first public release of Avalon code that will run on Windows 2003 and XP. Microsoft says that the difference between running Avalon on Windows 2003 and XP and running it on Longhorn, eventually, will be performance. Because Longhorn will include a more advanced graphics engine and will be able to take better advantage of modern graphics hardware, Avalon code will run faster on Longhorn than it does on Windows 2003 and XP. The interfaces for accessing Avalon on Longhorn or on Windows 2003 and XP, however, will be identical.
MSDN subscribers who want to access the Avalon technology preview should log on to Subscriber Downloads and navigate to Tools, SDKs, and DDKs; Platform Tools, SDKs, and DDKs; WinFX SDK--Community Technology Preview. Based on recent conversations I've had with various Microsoft representatives, you can also expect a similar technology preview for Indigo in the days ahead.
According to MSDN, the Microsoft WinFX SDK requires Microsoft .NET Framework v2.0 Beta 1 and the Avalon Community Technology Preview. To use Visual Studio (VS) 2005 Beta 1 to develop Avalon applications, you must install VS 2005 prior to installing the WinFX SDK, the site notes.

Avalon CTP Released!!!

The Road to Windows "Longhorn" 2004

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