Users considering Microsoft's next major operating system, code-named Longhorn, can expect stronger security and privacy, laptop roaming technology and improved desktop searching and organising, Microsoft said last week.
A preview version of Windows Longhorn is being made available at the WinHEC 2005 Windows hardware engineering conference this week.
Jim Allchin (pictured), Microsoft's group vice-president, said his priority was to make sure Longhorn meets quality standards, and this was more important than releasing the product on schedule, or having a full feature set.
He described Longhorn as "the OS platform for the next 10 years".It will include the new Avalon graphics system, the Indigo web services system, and the delayed WinFS file system.
He said the operating system was on track for a beta release this summer and final release in the second half of 2006.
Allchin added that Longhorn would be available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, with "top-to-bottom" Internet Protocol Version 6 support. Longhorn will also feature better methods for laptops to roam from one network to another, said Allchin.
Security is also a high priority, and Longhorn will have a secure start-up and support chip-level security via the Trusted Platform Module - a standard backed by many hardware manufacturers.
Longhorn will prevent end-users from accidentally installing malicious files by setting "least-privileged user" access as the default. In addition, unlike standard applications, Internet Explorer will run in a "containment area" to make it harder for malicious applications to install themselves.
Other security enhancements include anti-malware technology, protected user accounts and fast recovery.
The operating system will be based on a "virtual file system" to help prevent application compatibility problems, and there are performance enhancements including "instant on", smart caching and disc optimisation.
Its system restore facility will include user data as well as system data, and there will be a new back-up system to protect user data and write incremental file changes to another disc.
Longhorn will also have file searching enhancements, such as Windows Explorer, which will show mini-previews of documents instead of icons.
A Microsoft spokesman said, "We expect to share additional details about the features in Longhorn as we get closer to beta early this summer, but the final feature set is something that will be determined after extensive testing and feedback from customers."
Infosecurity: Seeing the big picture >>
Hardware security in Longhorn
The WinHEC 2005 release of Windows Longhorn will incorporate the first versions of Microsoft's next-generation Windows security system. The Next Generation Secure Computing Base, originally code-named Palladium, is part of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative.
Longhorn will use software technology called Trusted Operating Root, which will work with the standards-based Trusted Platform Module, a hardware-based component that encrypts data at chip level. The system uses encrypted software partitions to protect sensitive data and applications from hacking attacks.