Microsoft’s chief software architect Bill Gates took centre stage at last week’s software developer day in London in a bid to convince UK software developers to stick with Microsoft’s roadmap, even though Longhorn, its next generation operating system, is two to three years away.
There are three pillars to Microsoft’s operating system strategy: XML, web services and managed code. According to Gates, XML will raise the capability of the Longhorn platform by providing a means whereby data can be exchanged between different systems without the need for middleware.
Gates said, "Of all the middleware [used today] the only one that will exist is the high-end transactional database. Everything else will be built into the operating system."
Web service support is encompassed within the company’s .net framework, the programming interface for building Longhorn applications. Managed code is Microsoft’s way of reducing the complexity of programming via the Microsoft Common Language Runtime. This is a virtual machine which supports a number of programming languages, including C# and Visual Basic. Applications built for Longhorn are developed using the .net framework and the Microsoft Common Language Runtime.
One of the key concepts in Longhorn is the stateless PC, a model of computing that Microsoft claims will combine the benefits of thin-client computing with rich clients.
A thin-client architecture has the advantage of lower management costs because all software and user data is stored on a central server. A rich client is the type of computing familiar to most users, where applications and data are stored on the local PC.
Gates said, "We are fudging the line between the client and the server." When the speed of the network is taken into consideration, he said, "It will be possible to run the client PC in a stateless way," where user data and applications move back and forth between a network server and desktop PC running Longhorn.
The release of Longhorn is an attempt to change the way users access data and applications. A new file system called WinFS, based on Microsoft’s SQL Server, will allow users to organise documents based on author, project, keyword or user-defined criteria. Programs that support this feature could offer application-specific searching.