Gates Q&A Appears to Leave WinFS Fate Open

In a Q&A session this month, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect talked briefly about the next version of Windows, code-named "Longhorn," and seemed to be describing the WinFS technologies that are supposed to have been cut.

Talking about the future of technology during a session at the University of California Berkeley, Bill Gates took this question from an audience member: "I'm just wondering what does Microsoft have to offer for the future of Windows and for advanced users who like right now are migrating out to open source systems?"

In answering, Gates said, "We're working on a version called 'Longhorn' right now. And we've got some ambitious things we're doing."

Then, without further clarification, Gates went on to describe what sounded like WinFS:
"Today in an operating system you have to learn a lot of commands. You learn different commands for e-mail than files, the way you navigate photos is different than the way that you navigate music and what we'd like to do is get back to this thing where you have one store where all the information is there, your address book, your photos and it's a very rich store and so you can learn a small set of commands and so the way you navigate the address book, photos, music, mail, files, those are all the same and we think we can bring a simple conceptual understanding of where's my stuff, how do I move it between machines, how do I secure it by doing this?"

Gates' comments came about a month after Microsoft formally announced that WinFS would not be included in the RTM version of Longhorn, expected sometime in 2006. Gates could have been loosely referring to Microsoft's current plans to keep WinFS (Windows Future Storage) alive by releasing a beta version of the functionality at the same time as the Longhorn client ships.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.