Man, I'm a huge fan of Jim Allchin. He's straight talking, serious and kicks ass. My current favorite quote from Jim: “Malware. I want it dead.” And follows that by saying that he hadn't been able to deliver that 100% for XP SP2. But they're still plugging away.
But the topic of the day was Longhorn. Most people know that the name comes from the Longhorn bar that sits between Whistler (the code name of Windows XP) and Blackcomb (which was supposed to be the next version of Windows). But the reality of Longhorn is that it has grown to be an amazing and complex version of Windows. The highlight peices have been Avalon, Indigo and WinFS. Microsoft has promised a stunning amount of new functionality in Longhorn, and Jim is promising to deliver on it, just in a different form.
What's happened is that the Windows team is fixing the date of Longhorn - for “holiday time 2006.” To do that, they are breaking up the delivery of all these different features.
The exciting part is that versions of Avalon and Indigo are going to be made available for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. This is great news for developers, we're going to get a chance to build software utilizing the capabilities of these subsystems without having to have Longhorn. We don't have to drive our customers to the latest OS to take advantage of this new technology.
WinFS is being pushed back, to be delivered after Longhorn. The way Jim talked about it, it sounds to me like WinFS is growing in scope - the more they realize the power of object based data storage, the more development they need to do. Jim said they realized they don't want to ship the WinFS client component without the server component, and that means they need more time. It makes sense to me, it sounds like its going to be worth the wait. And it doesn't sound like its going to be long after, either. Jim says that WinFS will be in beta when Longhorn ships. That pretty much means that WinFS must ship in 2007 - Microsoft rarely ever goes over a year in beta.
The obvious question is “what's left for Longhorn?” and the answer is plenty. Sure, Avalon, Indigo and WinFS have been the highlight elements, but there is plenty more in the plan. A vastly more advanced search system is key, along with better functionality all around. The new display driver model of Longhorn is going to make a huge difference, I don't think we'll see the full power of Avalon until that is in place. A vastly improved deployment engine is going to make a big difference to anyone handling more computers than they can reach easily in one room.
In the end, the room applauded Jim, not just for being forthright about the realities, but because I think everyone here realized that this new plan is a better plan. Waiting for a massive shipment of all new code is not the best way to go - break the important bits down and get them out the door. That way we can kick the tires, explore the capabilities, and feed back into Microsoft to make them better. When the whole comes together, it'll be vastly superior to what we originally came up with at the beginning.