Microsoft considering WinFS support in Windows XP

Microsoft is considering adding to Windows XP support for the WinFS storage system originally planned for Longhorn.

Windows XP may be updated to support a new file system technology that Microsoft is working on for the next version of Windows.

Called WinFS, the technology promises to make it easier for users to find data stored on their computer. WinFS was originally slated to ship as part of the next Windows release, code-named Longhorn. Microsoft, however, last August pulled WinFS from Longhorn to be able to make a 2006 ship date for operating system's release.

Microsoft now plans to have a beta test version of WinFS available when Longhorn ships, probably late next year. While it develops the technology, Microsoft is also evaluating whether to make the storage system available on Windows XP, a company spokeswoman said in a statement sent via e-mail.

WinFS is built on top of the current NTFS file system in Windows, and uses relational engine technology from Microsoft's forthcoming SQL Server 2005 database as well as XML (Extensible Markup Language. XML metadata tags should make it easier to find, for example, documents and e-mail message on a computer, Microsoft has said.

If Microsoft does add support for WinFS to Windows XP, the operating system will support all three key Longhorn components as outlined by Microsoft at its Professional Developers Conference in October 2003. Microsoft in August last year said it would add support for the Longhorn Avalon graphics system, as well as the Longhorn Indigo communications subsystem to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Additionally, Microsoft has said Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 will be updated to support the WinFX application programming model that it had planned for Longhorn.

Support for the future technologies in the older operating systems will allow software makers to target a much larger installed base. Microsoft's previous plans potentially meant that applications developed for Longhorn would only run on Longhorn systems. Microsoft has not said anything about support for WinFS in Windows Server 2003.

Although Microsoft plans to support key Longhorn technologies in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, the company has said the next Windows release will still be worth the upgrade. Much of the value is likely come from the Longhorn "fundamentals," the core operating system technologies.

Microsoft has referred to WinFS, Avalon and Indigo the three key pillars of Longhorn, built on top of the fundamentals, which would include security features and technology to make sure applications and drivers don't conflict, for example.

A first beta of Longhorn is set to ship by the end of June. Microsoft is expected to handout a pre-beta preview release at the Microsoft Windows Hardware Engineering Conference late next month.

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Joris Evers

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