[news=http://img64.imageshack.us/img64/3088/mslonghornflagbig5mt.gif]By Mary Jo Foley
Monday, July 18, 2005
Just weeks before the Beta 1 bits are expected to hit, Microsoft has committed to some specific metrics around the kind of fundamental improvements Longhorn will deliver.
For the past several years, Microsoft has been promising that Longhorn would deliver some substantial security, reliability and performance improvements.
But until the worldwide partner conference in Minneapolis in mid-July, company officials had not quantified the benefits that Longhorn — the version of the Windows client operating system, due in 2006 — would deliver.
Amy Stephan, a senior product manager with the Windows client unit, outlined some of the various Longhorn "fundamentals," including systems management and deployment features, which Microsoft is readying.
Stephan told conference attendees that Longhorn will:
- launch applications 15 percent faster than Windows XP does
- boot PCs 50 percent faster than they boot currently and will allow PCs to resume from standby in two seconds
- allow users to patch systems with 50 percent fewer reboots required
- reduce the number of system images required by 50 percent
- enable companies to migrate users 75 percent faster than they can with existing versions of Windows.
The technologies which will deliver these enhancements have yet to be unveiled in full. But much of that functionality should, at least in theory, be part of Longhorn Beta 1, which is expected to go out to testers by early August. Microsoft said recently that it is planning to provide a refresh of the Beta 1 bits by mid-September at the Professional Developers Conference. Beta 2 isn't slated until some time in the first half of 2006, however. Beta 2 will be the first wide-scale Longhorn beta release to feature the new Aero user interface.
The final Longhorn release is still due in the latter half of 2006, company officials reiterated at the partner conference.
Stephan said Microsoft's goal is to allow administrators to install Longhorn on new systems in 15 minutes.
In addition, Microsoft is planning to provide a single, common scanning tool that will allow Longhorn users to check on their patch state. The Windows client team also is working on improving Longhorn's patch discovery and reporting capabilities, and is planning on enabling patches to be applied directly to the aforementioned system images.
Longhorn will allow users to customize the help system with their own annotations; provide new "guided recovery" help for "unbootable" systems; and deliver improved, proactive diagnostics for things such as hard-drive failure, battery-life and other performance-related features, she said.
On the security front, Longhorn will deliver more than a dozen new security enhancements, Stephan said. Microsoft officials have discussed most, if not all, of these features over the past couple of years. New security features slated for Longhorn include everything from Network Access Protection quarantining and browser lock-down, to protected user accounts and anti-malware protection, over the past couple of years.
"Our preliminary research shows that Longhorn will help drive down costs in administering and managing PCs," Stephan concluded. "It will lower security, deployment, administration and support costs" in a way that hasn't been seen since the company delivered Windows 95 ten years ago."
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At the partner show, Microsoft execs showed off Longhorn client build 5086, a pre-beta release that went to selected Technology Adoption Program participants earlier this month. They also demonstrated a Longhorn feature called "Meeting Space" that is designed to allow users to conduct impromptu meetings via P2P.
As of late, company officials have taken to describing the three Cs in Longhorn, meaning the three buckets of features that are part of the core operating system. In the "confidence" bucket are all kinds of security and manageability features. In the "creative" one are technologies, such as like browse/search/subscribe (Internet Explorer and RSS) and the forthcoming user interface. And in the "connected" bucket are features like Meeting Space and synch technology for plugging in wireless devices of all kinds.