You’ve heard it here first: Longhorn is just the codename for a Windows XP re-release. The fact that for the last 4 years the media reported it as being much more than just a Windows XP re-release, has just been the result of miscommunication according to Jim Allchin, one of my sources at Microsoft who wished to remain anonymous.
“I don’t know how it happened, or when this started to happen exactly, but it just happened and then it was uncontrollable, I mean, the media was just running wild with it, and we were looking for the right time to say something about it,” said Allchin. “They did the same thing when we announced Windows XP Reloaded, people thought that was the next interim version of Windows, while it was simply a marketing plan to sell Windows XP.”
Another one of my sources at Microsoft, who did ask to be named but of which I decided not to, said that they are currently considering calling Longhorn “Windows XP Revolutions” and that Microsoft lawyers were in the process of making sure the name can be used without legal issues.
According to Allchin, Microsoft was planning to release all the new technologies such as WinFS, Indigo and Avalon as a service pack for Longhorn from the beginning. “It was never our intention to release it in the next major version of Windows, quite frankly because we’re not sure that will ever happen. So we’re just going to do it for Windows XP for now.”
“At one point we did try to give the media a clue and carefully announce that the new technologies were simply meant for Windows XP, by saying that we would back-port the technologies to Windows XP and release them all in the next service pack, but they kept insisting that Longhorn was a big deal,” Allchin said, while shaking his head in disappointment.
Indeed in the last year Microsoft has been periodically making announcements about certain technologies that would not make it in Longhorn and be released in a following service pack, and technologies that would be back-ported to Windows XP. Most notable are WinFS, which would be released in a service pack, Avalon and Indigo which would be back-ported to Windows XP, NGSCB of which more advanced features would be released much later in a service pack, and most recently Monad, the new Shell for Windows which won’t make it for Longhorn. And contrary to what most people thought, most of Longhorn won’t be built on top of .NET at all.
Confronted with the question of what would be released in Longhorn, Allchin said: “Mostly security fixes, bug fixes, some minor updates, things like that. It won’t be as significant as Windows XP Service Pack 2, and I know we promised a lot of new technologies and functionality, but that will come months later in the first service pack.”
Initial reactions from the press were not good for Microsoft. “I know I said Longhorn had the makings of a train wreck, but I was so wrong,” said Paul Thurrott. “This looks like the aftermath of Armageddon,” he added. Laura Didio, an analyst at the Yankee Group, said this was significant news but refused to further comment saying that she needed to further analyze. Mary Jo Foley from Microsoft Watch said she wasn’t surprised at all by this news. “All that’s in the news these days about Longhorn are technologies that will not make it into Longhorn. It seems that in the end, nothing will.”
Robert Cringely, as usual, predicted doom for Microsoft, and added a twist by saying that this time, the rest of the industry will not go unharmed either. “This is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s going to get very bad.”
Steven Bink from Bink.nu did not have anything to say about this matter but insisted I mention him.
Predictably, developers all over the world reacted in outrage. “I don’t know what they’re smoking in Redmond, but I’ve got 50 bucks that says it’s illegal in most countries,” said Noel Spongebobsky, a senior developer at Volumefog Lake who claims to have installed Linspire on all of his development machines after hearing this news. “There is too much uncertainty and doubt, and we can’t work with this. Ever since PDC 2003 we’ve been counting on this technology, and working with betas of some of them only to hear that most of them won’t be in Longhorn at all. This is frustrating as hell,” he added while taking some of his medication.
What’s interesting is that other companies in the software industry think that Microsoft’s strategy is a good idea. Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe Systems Incorporated, expressed disappointment in the fact that his company never thought of this before. “This is amazing, I’m sure a lot of companies are going to follow in Microsoft’s footsteps, just like they did with Product Activation. We could release Adobe Creative Suite 2 again in a year exactly as it is right now, and just call it Adobe Creative Suite 3 and mention the new features will be added a few months to a year later in a service pack. I mean, think of the possibilities,” Chizen said.
My sources at Symantec said senior executives there shared Chizen’s opinion.