Longhorn's worth the wait, says Microsoft's Gates

Microsoft's Bill Gates took centre stage at yesterday's software developer day in London to convince UK software developers to...

Microsoft's Bill Gates took centre stage at yesterday's software developer day in London to convince UK software developers to stick with Microsoft, even though Longhorn, its next-generation operating system platform, is two to three years away.

Putting his trust in Moore's Law, Gates planned to exploit the full potential of future generations of PC processing power in Longhorn to support technologies such as instant messaging and speech synthesis and recognition.

He said, "Longhorn is a significant step forward for us." One of the key concepts in Longhorn is the stateless PC, a form of computing designed to combine the benefits of thin client computing with rich clients, where software can take advantage of functionality on the PC.

Gates added, "We are fudging the line between the client and the server." Given the speed of the network he said, "It will be possible to run the client PC in a stateless way," where user data and applications could move back and forth between a network server and desktop PC running Longhorn.

Turning his attention to the two-year-old Trustworthy Computing initiative for secure computing, Gates said hackers were no longer looking for holes in systems, but instead were waiting for a patch to be released.

Users then faced a race against time to install the patch before the hacker could generate an exploit, he warned, and he admitted that Microsoft patches were still too big. "Clearly we have work to do," he said, "When only 20% of our customers are up to date [with the latest patches]."

Longhorn aims to change the way users access data and applications on a PC. 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.

Tom Ilube, the  chief information officer of online bank Egg, gave a presentation of a proof of concept application based on Longhorn and WinFS, to illustrate how Egg's online banking platform would be evolving.

One of the key changes he expected in online banking was a shift from web-based banking to smart client -based online banking where the customer's PC was continually running the banking application and communicating with the Egg back end.

Using WinFS, Ilube demonstrated how a customer would be able to organise their bank account on the Longhorn desktop. He also showed a way customer service could operate in the future by taking advantage of a permanent internet connection between the customer's PC and the Egg back end.

In the demo, a customer service representative was able to talk to the customer via a video popup window on the Longhorn desktop.

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