Preparing for "Longhorn"

In the previous post, a reader commented that they didn't see the point in “...wasting cycles on vapor that is at least 3 years out...”. At first, I was going to reply as just another comment, but I figured that my reply would probably be best elevated up to a regular article instead. This way I can try to clarify some of my rationale behind dealing with “Longhorn” at this stage, as well as providing a venue for my audience to respond directly to this topic.

Admittedly, there are many people out there who don't yet need to be thinking too hard about “Longhorn”. But at the same time, this is exactly when a lot of the rest of you are, or should be, needing to start planning on how you are going to be evolving your applications so that they can take the best advantage of this next version of Windows.

Application development is commonly not a “just-in-time” process. It takes months, or more often years, to produce a new application that attempts to directly address a consumer or business need. Even the “upgrade” process for an existing application can represent a significant amount of development and planning, far more then just the delta time between one release and the next.

If the changes coming out in “Longhorn” consisted simply of changing the spelling of an API, or adding a few additional parameters to an existing function call, then such changes could be incorporated into an existing application without too much of a challenge. For example, with Windows XP, we really didn't spend a lot of time prepping the developer community with details about how to get your applications ready for it, since there really wasn't a tremendous amout of work associated with making sure an application could use any of the newer features of WinXP. The fact that we are priming the pump this early on for “Longhorn” should serve as a indicator for how much is changing.

I felt that for my audience, I wanted to make sure that I was able to provide coverage of the core basics of what “Longhorn” was all about. So immediately following the PDC, I started with touching on each of the key pillars that we feel describe “Longhorn” to the general audience. With all of the new technologies and changes that are coming out in “Longhorn”, I could focus all of the rest of the episodes from now until “Longhorn” ships on specific, and important, features, and still not cover all of them. Windows Identity Services. Collaboration. The Secure Execution Environment. Custom Schemas. Synch Adapters... and the list goes on and on. However, I will probably instead start interspersing shows which focus on some of the features of “Whidbey”, “Yukon”, and advancements in the base CLR and .NET Framework itself soon.

With all of this focus on how big of a change will be coming out in “Longhorn”, I also want to assure you that we will continue to focus on compatibility with existing applications. I recently took my “Longhorn” development system and installed VisiCalc, Excel 5.0, QuickC 1.0, Tempest, and a number of other MS-DOS, Win16, and Win32 applications, and they all ran perfectly fine. With QuickC for Windows, I was even able to continue to build 16 bit applications on Longhorn which ran fine. So you don't have to be afraid that all existing applications will be rendered obsolete.

What you -do- need to pay attention to, is how “Longhorn” will evolve the users concept of exactly what a Windows application is all about, and what features and functionality it should be providing them with. Many application developers should be starting to think about this TODAY, and how to begin incorporating some of these features into their application moving forward. Just the schematized file system that WinFS will introduce alone can represent not only a big jump in the potential functionality of an application, but also a considerable change in how your existing application might want to begin thinking about data storage.

So spend a little time thinking about “Longhorn”, imagine what your application might look like on this new platform... or better yet, if you are a solution provider or software vendor, consider what your “competitions” application might look like on this new platform if you aren't there yourself...

Please add comments to this post as to how much time you think I should focus on “Longhorn“ in future episodes.


Comments (38)

  1. I think Longhorn is a very important step both to individual users and corporations, but also to developers in how they think about their code and coding practices. Coupled with VS.Net 2005, Longhorn and other related technologies, like SQL Server 2005, IMHO, will radically change the way software is developed, and consumed by users and therefore think that some additional focus be drawn to Longhorn and related future Microsoft technologies.

  2. I think that information on Longhorn is great but not at the expense of scarce resources like the .NET Show. I think the last time you guys did a show on technology that is currently available was last October (off the top of my head). Every show since then has been about something due out in 2005 or later.

    That is a bit troubling for some of us. Others probably see your show as about the future and not the present. I just think that Oct 2003 – Feb(??) 2005 is a long time to be promoting the future at the expense of the present.

    As I said, my numbers may be off and I realize that others have different opinions than myself, but I am sure I am not the only one.

  3. Joku says:

    I think you could do show or two on Yukon soon.

  4. Tim Scarfe says:

    Hi Robert,

    While I understand your position completely, I think another poster here put his finger on the mark when he said it wasn’t worth sacrificing a rare medium like the .NET show. So we have a dilemma.

    While I also watch MSDN TV, the episodes are; also future focused, sporadic and too short. I’m not sure if you have the resources to provide another show covering day-to-day development issues simultaneously with the .NET show.

    I think you should provide a facility for people to show their support for this incredible medium so you can unlock more resources/funding from Microsoft.

    The original mandate for creating these videos was likely along the lines of (as you said) a massive upcoming shift in the methods of software development. However. Many shows later you have become the envy of the software development industry providing so much rich, valuable content. Please try and work something out for us!

    I was at the “DotNet” meeting in Microsoft’s offices in Central London last week, and I was evangelising your show to everyone I spoke to!

    Keep up the great work.

  5. Jason S. says:


    Excellent post. Interesting that while I agree with many of your points I come to VERY different conclusions about those points.

    On radical change:

    I found .net to be a very radical change as well. Nearly every aspect of software development on the Windows platform was morphing and improving in huge ways. However the lead time on this was from shortly before the PDC in July of 2000 to the ship date of Feburary of 2002. Contrast to the timeframe of Oct. 2003 to some future date in <a href="">2007</a&gt;. That’s a SIGNIFICANT difference.

    On development not being a "Just in Time activity":

    Certainly it is not. However 3+ years of spinup, evangelism and marketing hype seems execessive. How many software development shops do you know that have a product cycle like that? I would be very interested to see a list of shops that are actively pursuing a product or service based on any pillar in Longhorn. I have seen a couple of concepts and they look fabulous but they are mere concepts. Moreover, until a somewhat stable alpha is out many companies would be foolish to target Longhorn specifically. If now is the time why aren’t there any Longhorn ISV partner programs? Has anyone at training and certification started on the exams or training courses? Books? I see one from MSPress and it was distributed at the PDC. Why? Because the feature set is going to be radically different in 3 YEARS. If I want to actually compile and run anything can the public even get an alpha of these bits yet? Before you say yes, the PDC, realize that most of the code demo’d won’t run on it. But I should be planning my apps around Longhorn now? MSDN subscribers just in the last week got an alpha of Whidbey and it is supposed to ship next year! The beta for Longhorn just slipped to 2005. I feel this point is a gross overstatement.

    In closing: does Longhorn look like some interesting stuff? Absolutely. Is now the time to plan my software around it? Absolutely NOT. I understand evangelism, I get the marketing angle and I’m willing to take some hype; I have honed my ability to seperate the marketecture from the useful features. I really like the .Net show but when you see the % of msft developer channels swelling with info on 3 year vapor you wonder. I love seeing info on new products, even that far out… but this much? Is it the .Net show or the Longhorn show?

  6. Take Outs for 3 April 2004

  7. Sven Aelterman says:

    Hi all,

    I can understand everyone’s point here. However, I feel that a multimedia medium like the .NET show should focus on something that’s further out.

    I believe that because there are better media out there for the current stuff. I you want to use ASP.NET and ADO.NET today, you don’t need to be watching an hour (or so) long TV show. That’s not what will help you become a better developer or an expert! You need to be reading books, researching technical articles, visiting newsgroups, and experiment. Throw in a web cast about security and a seminar for good taste, and, if you can afford it, some training to top it off.

    I feel, however, that with products that haven’t even reached the alphy cycle yet, there aren’t a whole lot of options out there for Microsoft to show what’s to come. If you feel that its too far out there for you, that’s OK. Don’t look for info on Longhorn then. But there are people (I like to think I am one of them) who are looking for the next great and best thing and not today’s technology. There just isn’t anything else: there are no books, there are no seminars, there are no whitepapers; there is only "talk" (and I mean this in a positive way). The best way, IMHO, to present this "talk" is using an entertaining discussion format.

    So, in short, while I agree that not too many people are looking for Longhorn material today, there are already tens of resources out there for them. The .NET Show has always been cutting edge, that’s why I watch. Longhorn is a long time away, that’s why I turn to the .NET Show for info about it. Robert, schedule Longhorn, Whidbey, Yukon, and other future technologies for the show!

    Best to all,


  8. Joku says:

    What about making a couple more shows in year? Say if now you are doing 12/yr, make 15/yr or something and use the extra shows to drop in some more current subjects. But i guess if this was possible, you’d be doing it already,..

  9. Robert Björn says:

    I agree fully with Sven. I think the .NET Show is extremely interesting and its primary purpose should be for discussing and showcasing future technologies. I look forward to every episode!

  10. O says:

    I’ve been particularly pleased with the coverage of the past few shows.

    It’s important to distinguish between the "way out there" products that are about improvements on existing technology (more features, easier, etc.) and products that are about completely new approaches to building software (Indigo, Service-Oriented Architecture, schematized file systems, etc.).

    Gee-whiz feature coverage really isn’t useful to me until I’ve got the tools in my hot little hands. A new and better approach to designing and building products is useful to me NOW since it allows me to build my apps in a way that benefits from the new techniques as well as allows me to transition smoothly to Microsoft’s specific implementations of the techniques once they are released.

    Personally, I’m in software development for a career, not just to get by with the tools of the moment. One thing I’ve noticed is that the stuff that people are writing over and over again eventually becomes commoditized and it becomes time to either move on to new problems, or be left behind. There are a lot of interesting problems that are becoming commoditized, both in the Whidbey time frame, and especially in the Longhorn time frame. ASP.NET Whidbey is supposed to reduce the code you need to write by 2/3rds. That’s cool, but it could also mean that 2/3rds of your relevance to your organization is now in jeopardy unless you figure out how to use your newly-found free time to do even better things.

  11. Kariem Ali says:


    I just can not thank you enough for the beautiful show. I learned a lot about .NET from your show. I only wish to say that don’t pay attention to a lot of people out there who don’t want to bother themselves to learn about the new technologies. One of the most exciting features about your show that it allows us to sneak a look at the new technologies especially if we don’t have an MSDN subscription to download the early betas and if we can’t go to the PDC. Keep up the good work.

    P.S. I expected the code optimization episode to be a little complicated than it was. I really didn’t benefit much from it I hope you will do another one soon that involves much more code optimization (code) demos "Enter the Programmer" kind of stuff.



  12. Robert Hess says:

    I -love- hearing all of your comments about the show. After all, this is something that I am doing for all of you guys. In doing shows on Longhorn, I am not trying to tell you guys to start writing Longhorn applications today… but I -am- recommending that you familiarize yourself with what Longhorn is, so that as you continue with your application design and development you’ll start thinking about how it will eventually be able to support Longhorn. If you wait until the moment that you are ready to start working on your "Longhorn Version"… then that will be too late.

    However, I also hear that there is indeed space for including more "near term" technologies as part of the shows that I do. "Whidbey", "Yukon", and other technologies that will be available before Longhorn are also important to understand, as too are even some of the technologies that are currently shipping, but perhaps not quite as well understood as they could be.

    So I’ll definately be working on covering some pre-Longhorn technologies (and "current technologies") in upcoming episodes.

  13. myelife says:


    I was looking for the more information of Longhorn. It’s good to check this site.


  14. Russell Darroch says:

    Given the magnitude of the changes in Longhorn and associated technologies we can’t have too much of this type of preliminary information in my view. Hopefully (this time!) the IT community will be sophisticated enough to really use the information to prepare for the next iteration of cool technologies. Thanks for a great service. I refer all of my IT contacts to Longhorn links and this show…hopefully it stir/entice/frighten(?) them into paying attention.

  15. Steven Zacky says:


    I’m Chinese.I hope have a lots show about Longhorn and Yukon.

  16. ... says:

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  17. ... says:

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  18. ... says:

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  19. Yuhong Bao says:

    Visual C++ 1.0 and MASM 6.1 could only run on Windows 3.x and beta version of NT 3.1 because it was built for the October 1992 beta of Windows NT 3.1 and then bound with a compatible version of the Phar Lap TNT DOS extender (which were renamed DOSXNT in Microsoft’s products to mirror names such as DOSX16 and DOSX32), and the Visual C++ 1.0 IDE could build and debug only on Windows 3.x. BETA2FIX.EXE was created to "fix" the beta exes so they run on final NT by changing subsystem versions and changing all references to ntdll.dll to beta2.dll. MASM 6.11 and Visual C++ 1.5 are built for final NT and the Visual C++ IDE was updated for debugging and building support on final NT. It still runs on XP. Shows how a little change can go a long way.

  20. ... says:

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  30. ... says:

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  31. ... says:

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