In 2006, Microsoft is slated to release a new version of its Windows operating system. “Longhorn” is the code name for the next version of Windows. This generation of software will include new versions of Windows, Windows Server, .NET, MSN, Microsoft Office, and other products. Microsoft labels the key new technologies as “The Pillars of Longhorn,” which are:
Fundamentals: new developments to the basic structure of the operating system including the .NET framework, further support for digital rights management (DRM), an application deployment engine (“ClickOnce”), improvements to the installation of applications (Windows Installer/MSI 4.0), and the Trustworthy Computing initiative (trusted computing).
Avalon: a new user interface subsystem and API based on XML, .NET, and vector graphics, which will make use of 3D computer graphics hardware and Direct3D technologies.
Indigo: a service-oriented messaging system to allow programs to interoperate as part of the .NET framework.
WinFX: a new API to allow access to these new features, replacing the current “Win32” API
Additionally, Longhorn will include many other new features:
a completely re-designed user interface, code-named Aero. The new interface is intended to be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than previous Windows interfaces. The most visible addition to the interface is the sidebar, an area at the side of the screen consisting of tiles which display dynamic information about whatever window is currently in the foreground, which is essentially an extension of the “system tray” on the Windows task bar. Note that the sidebar had been removed as part of the WinHEC 2005 release (Build 5048).
a new command-line interface called MSH, and codenamed Monad. It combines the Unix pipes and filters philosophy with that of object-oriented programming.
full support for the “NX” (No-Execute) feature of processors. This feature, present in AMD’s AMD64 architecture, as well as Intel’s EM64T Architecture, can flag certain parts of memory as containing data instead of executable code, which prevents overflow errors from resulting in arbitrary code execution. This should not be confused with trusted computing facilities provided by a so-called Fritz-chip.
built-in DVD recording capabilities, including Mt. Rainier support.
a new installation program that will install Longhorn in about 15 minutes (which is present in alpha build 4074 of Windows Longhorn).
Longhorn will feature a task-based (or “iterative”) interface that goes far beyond the task-based interface found today in Windows XP. Microsoft has been working to move beyond the dated desktop metaphor still used by Mac OS X and Linux; This new user interface, or “user experience,” is code-named “Aero” and is based on a new .NET-based graphics API called “Avalon,” which replaces earlier graphics APIs such as GDI and GDI+.
The Longhorn Start Menu and task bar will be enhanced with a new Sidebar component that can optionally appear locked to one side of the desktop. The Sidebar is an XML-based panel that includes links to local and remote resources.
Longhorn will require 3D video hardware to render special effects that will make the screen more photorealistic and deep. This doesn’t mean that the basic windows and mouse interface is being replaced, just that it will look a lot better.
Longhorn will optionally include the Palladium security technology Microsoft is developing with Intel and AMD.
Longhorn will include a database-like storage engine called Windows Future Storage (WinFS), which is based on technology from SQL Server 2003 (code-named Yukon). This storage engine builds on NTFS and will abstract physical file locations from the user and allow for the sorts of complex data searching that are impossible today. For example, today, your email messages, contacts, Word documents, and music files are all completely separate. That won’t be the case in Longhorn. WinFS requires NTFS.
Longhorn will include new anti-virus (AV) APIs that will help developers
more easily integrate their wares into the base OS. Microsoft will also offer Longhorn customers a subscription-based AV feature that use AutoUpdate to keep your system up-to-date with new virus signatures.
Longhorn will include integrated recordable DVD capabilities and will work with every type of recordable DVD format. Digital media enthusiasts will be able to copy video from a digital camcorder directly to recordable DVD, bypassing the system’s hard drive entirely, if desired.
Longhorn will include an advanced version of the successful Error Reporting Tool (ERT) that shipped in