Longhorn rescope redux…

So here’s what it comes down to…. Longhorn is going to ship without WinFS and Avalon is getting scaled back (I think I remember reading that they’ve chopped vector-based graphics, but I can’t find a reference), and the remainder of WinFX will be back-ported to Windows XP and Server 2003. There’s a bunch of other changes in all of the pillars, but these seem to be the ones that everyone is talking about.

I think this is a good strategic move for Microsoft.

The shareholders should be happy, because this decision makes good business sense. The original roadmap made all of us geeks happy. Things like database file systems and scalable 3-d screen elements make us giddy. While we are the early adopters and we generally drive the platform forward, we don’t make-up the majority of the user base. The new roadmap should be more in-line with the needs and wants of the majority of customers.

As an example, try to imagine how you would explain to your parents or grandparents, or to a non-geek business manager why they need WinFS… Yes WinFS is a good idea, and Microsoft needs to keep working on it, but implementing it within 2 years not only would be technically challenging, but the user-base isn’t ready for it, and they won’t be ready for it until it is seamless, easy-to-use, and easy-to-understand. To those of us that utilize databases every day, WinFS just makes sense, but getting everyday users on-board is going to be tough since we’ve spent the last couple decades teaching them to use files. And files were somewhat easy because we related them to documents & file-folders. How are we going to explain WinFS?

Me: “Well grandma, it’s like this… when you save this picture, you’re actually going to be putting in 4 different file cabinets… in this one the tabs are labeled by date, in this one, the tabs are the name of the person who took the picture, in this one they’re organized by size, and in this one the tabs are the names of the people and objects in the picture, and you might put it in a bunch of different folders in that last cabinet…”

Grandma: “That sounds like a lot of work… I’ll just stick to my 35mm..”

Many home-users and businesses are already lagging behind on the upgrade path. There is a combined problem of a lack of upgrade dollars, and a “what I have is good-enough” mentality. With that said, Microsoft needs to focus on making the Longhorn platform(s) a complelling and worthwhile upgrade for business and home users. For home users it’s about “What features will make my life easier and more fun?”, and for business users it’s “What features will make my business more efficient and more profitable?”

Robert Scoble has some good perspective here and links to lots of blog feedback here.

I’m psyched that we’ll see Longhorn in 2006. I’m disappointed that WinFS will lag behind. I’m hoping that Microsoft can keep this on-schedule.

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