Analysts warn of lock-in dangers as Microsoft previews Longhorn

Microsoft developers' conference Bill Gates introduces Longhorn as a platform for IT integration, promotes a 'stateless' working...

Microsoft developers' conference Bill Gates introduces Longhorn as a platform for IT integration, promotes a 'stateless' working environment and releases CRM for SMEs.

Microsoft is aiming to develop the next generation operating system as a platform for IT integration. But tighter integration could lead to a Microsoft lock-in, analysts have warned.

Middleware has been at the heart of many IT integration projects, allowing users to link disparate IT systems together so that data can be moved back and forth automatically.

Speaking at the Microsoft developer's day in London last week, Microsoft's chief software architect Bill Gates, said, "Everyone with a powerful operating system should provide integration without middleware."

Microsoft is planning to bundle all its integration technology, including tools for software development, into the operating system. The only exception will be high-end database servers.

Mark Blower, senior research analyst at Butler Group, described this approach to software development in Longhorn as a service-based architecture where applications communicate via web services. This would make replacing middleware far easier than it is today, said Blower.

"It is early days but everyone has a strategy to evolve," he said.

Ovum analyst Bola Rotiba was concerned that Microsoft had yet to nail down how third-party products will work within its middleware-free strategy.

"Microsoft will need to show how enterprise users can extend WinFS to support all types of data sources," she said. Rotiba also said questions remained as to how Longhorn would tackle interoperability.

Some of the technology in Longhorn will make its first public appearance later this year in the next release of the Visual development platform, Whidbey.

Rotiba said that the company needed to improve its development tools strategy for enterprise developers. "Microsoft has been very good at making individual developers more productive, [but] it has been behind in supporting the software development lifecycle." In particular she said, "IT managers need tools to help them with their work today."

Gates said that Backcomb, a future version of Windows, would introduce a user interface based on speech recognition and synthesis.

Microsoft also said it was working with hardware firms to build graphics device driver software that could be restarted without rebooting the PC.

The company admitted thata problem with PC reliability was the result of poorly written graphics device drivers that needed to run in so-called "kernel mode".

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