Microsoft Stays Mum on Plans for Windows, WinFS

Now that Microsoft has announced it is not pursuing the separate delivery of WinFS as a stand-alone offering, the Redmond-based software maker is also making clear that it has no intention of discussing its post-Vista plans for Windows and WinFS anytime soon.

“A lot of people are asking about the roadmap [for WinFS and Windows] going forward, but we are just not discussing that at this point in time,” said Corey Thomas, the group product manager for SQL Server, in an interview with eWEEK on June 26.

Microsoft first announced that it was no longer pursuing the separate delivery of WinFS, or the previously planned second beta release of the product—which it had long been promising—in a June 23 blog posting by Quentin Clark, the product unit manager for Microsoft’s SQL/WinFS unit.

“With most of our effort now working toward productizing mature aspects of the WinFS project into SQL and ADO.NET, we do not need to deliver a separate WinFS offering,” Clark said in that post.

Some, like Burton group analyst Peter O’Kelly, say they believe this was a necessary and pragmatic decision.

“Microsoft was more than a little bit on the woefully optimistic side when it introduced WinFS in 2003 and … the revised approach, reflecting significant developer input over the last three years, is much more pragmatic. The WinFS vision has always been laudable; the company was simply too ambitious in trying to bring it to fruition with a single .Net Framework extension,” he said.

But others, including some attendees of Microsoft’s annual TechEd show held in Boston earlier in June, were taken by surprise, especially since Clark told them at the show that a second, publicly available beta of WinFS would be available some time later in 2006.

Click here to read more on what Microsoft had to say about the future of WinFS at TechEd 2006.

Clark also delved into Microsoft’s evolving vision for WinFS—a technology that was expected to be the killer feature for Vista and Longhorn Server.

But, in August 2004, Microsoft cut WinFS out of both operating-system releases in order to be able to ship them in more of a timely fashion.

But it said that WinFS would be made available as a stand-alone technology after Vista and Longhorn Server shipped.

In line with this approach, Microsoft released the first beta of WinFS in September 2005 and refreshed that beta in December 2005.

Thomas said the discrepancy between the information about WinFS shared at TechEd and this latest announcement, by saying the WinFS decision was only made late last week.

“Even though we had major discussions at TechEd, we wanted to get this latest information out to our customers and partners as soon as possible, even though we knew we would take a bit of a knock for having one conversation at TechEd and then announcing the changes in the ship vehicle a couple of weeks later,” he said.

The Burton group’s O’Kelly believes that WinFS as it was known will die a rather lonely death.

“I’m sure some Microsoft customers and partners are annoyed about the change in plans, but I’d be willing to bet the change in plans is the direct result of clear feedback from a relatively larger group of otherwise annoyed Microsoft customers and partners who told Microsoft, probably at TechEd, that the WinFS plan of record wasn’t realistic,” he said.

That view is borne out by Microsoft’s Thomas, who detailed the rationale behind the decision.

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