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Date set for second Longhorn conference

Microsoft will hold a second Longhorn-themed Professional Developers Conference in September 2005, almost two years after it first detailed the successor to Windows XP.

Longhorn has undergone a lot of changes since the unveiling, with Microsoft sacrificing some key advances so the operating system could make a 2006 shipping date. Microsoft now plans to offer updates for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 to support technologies previously reserved for Longhorn.

At the second Longhorn developers conference, to be held 13-16 September in Los Angeles, Microsoft should be able to give developers more concrete information on the OS. A first Longhorn beta is scheduled for the first half of 2005. Visual Studio 2005, a new release of Microsoft's developer toolset, is also due out several months before the conference.

Microsoft has distributed several preview releases of Longhorn. But with all the changes, it could be risky for developers to start programming for the OS, as their work might depend on features that subsequently get cut, according to one analyst.

"The timing of this conference will be better because we will get builds of the product that are more representative of what it is going to look like when it is done," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Michael Cherry. "I would like to know when the feature set gets locked down."

The 2003 Professional Developers Conference was the first time Microsoft talked publicly about many of the features planned for Longhorn. Chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates hyped the OS as "the biggest release of this decade, the biggest since Windows 95".

In April Microsoft said it was clipping some minor features from Longhorn in order to get a beta version out in 2005, but said the product would still have all the major components set out at the 2003 conference.

But in August, Microsoft said it had stripped Longhorn of the WinFS unified storage system, which Gates had called the "Holy Grail" at the 2003 conference. 

Microsoft also said it would offer updates to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 to support the Avalon graphics system, as well as the Longhorn comms subsystem and the WinFX application programming model.

Last month, Microsoft released a community technology preview of Avalon, an incomplete test version for developers to play with. The preview is also meant to allow developers to experiment with Avalon on current versions of Windows.

Cherry said that adding Longhorn functionality to older Windows versions should be one of the major topics at next year's conference.

"I am looking forward to the conference to get some explanation about how I can write an application that takes full advantage of Longhorn, and then degrades gracefully when it is running on XP with Avalon, and then maybe even degrades more gracefully when running on just XP," he said.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service


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