Longhorn Gateway to Hypermedia

A hot new operating system may very well change the way you interact with your data.

Microsoft's new Windows operating system, code named Longhorn, will open the flood gate to hypermedia and provide a new approach in working with data.


The NY Times ran a story on November 7, 2002 by David Gelernter who reported that Bill Gates had made the following comment earlier in July, "Why are my documents files stored one way, my contacts another way and my e-mail and instant-messaging buddy list still another, and why aren't they related to my calendar or to one another, and easy to search en masse?" [1] Oh, listen to what the words imply. The words of Bill Gates give you a clue about the new operating system.

Longhorn Highlights

The folks at ZDNet had the opportunity to view the alpha release of Microsoft's new Windows 6.0 operating system and they have reported many intriguing features. [2] This system, just as with all previous Windows systems, will provide a new look and feel. The eye-candy will be driven by a new 3d technology code-named Avalon that presents a photo-realistic desktop display. Interestingly, some of the menus will be somewhat transparent, giving the operating system that new look and feel.

Other features are support for the 64-byte processors like Intel's Itanium II or the AMD Opteron, but these processors are not a requirement. The user will finally have access to My Hardware directly off the Start menu instead from the Device Manager. There will be an XML-based sidebar to allow the user to easily customize the interface and its functionality as necessary. The system also provides enhanced support of both DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW. The new system provides for enhanced multimedia support where one can burn DVDs directly from camcorder or other video source without having to store data on the hard drive first.

The new operating system will also provide support for terabyte hard drives. A terabyte is 1000 gigabytes of storage, and it is projected that terabyte drives will be available in 5 years for around $350. Video will place the greatest demand on the hard drives, and yet one could store 1000 compressed movies on a terabyte drive. From a text stand point, one could store 700,000 novels the size of War and Peace on a disk drive of that size.

The most profound change is the file system will not be based on File Allocation Tables like FAT, FAT32 nor the New Technology File System like the NTFS file system. But instead, Microsoft will introduce a new file system architecture called Windows Future Storage (WinFS). This new file system will be based on the SQL Server 2003 (codenamed Yukon), thus accommodating complex SQL file searches. And as Bill Gates may have implied back in 2002, data such as contact, email messages and office documents are no longer stored as individual files but will be stored as data and cross referenced allowing for complex searches.

Possibly the most contentious innovation is the introduction of the Palladium security system. Special hardware will be required to operate this real-time module separately from other system components. When the computer is powered, the BIOS will check the hardware and then identify the system users/owners. This will provide protection to the system and its data against unauthorized access and also prevent attacks for the Internet.

All data on the disk will be encrypted and special control checks are made on data leaving the system. All connections to the computer are examined and receivers on the network are identified. This verification process controls the data flow coming into the system from the network or Internet and determines whether the file or data has been certified for usage. This means that SPAM mail will finally be prevented from entering the system just as a virus is detected before it enters the system.

Timestamps will be applied to documents like Word, Excel or PowerPoint that will allow the document to be available for reading up to a specified date. E-mails can be sent in such a way that only the addressee can read it and the e-mail cannot be copied or forwarded. Finally, the system accommodates the Digital Rights Management (DRM) protocol, pushed primarily by the audio/video media industry where any copyright-protected material will be transferable exclusively to the entitled receiver.

Windows 6.0 may be the first operating system to take advantage of PCI express. PCI express is the next generation motherboard slot protocol that provides communication from a peripheral card to the computer system. This new protocol will provide communication 8 times faster than the existing PCI based protocol, and is a requirement for the Palladium security system.

The new operating system will handle the files and data differently which implies that the Office suite will have to be overhauled to be compliant with the new operating system. Reportedly, this point was confirmed by CEO Ballmer in a published industry news report.

A number of Longhorn screen prints can be found at Paul Thurrott's Internet Site [3].

Launch Date

The launch date was not known, although it was originally scheduled to be released in 2003 or 2004. More recent reports indicate the new operating system may not be available until 2005, and there is a possibility that it may not reach the streets until 2006. In any event it appears we will have to wait a couple more years before we can get our hands on these new features.


[1] New York Times article 07 Nov, 2002 www.nytimes.com/ 2002/11/07/technology/circuits/07soft.html

[2] ZDNet article 21 Feb, 2003 reviews.zdnet.co.uk/review/42/1/2989.html

[3] Paul Thurrott's Internet Site www.winsupersite.com/reviews/longhorn_alpha.asp