Ok, so we all know by now that Longhorn is undergoing some changes in order to deliver the product in a timely fashion. Basically what it seems to boil down to is that we’re going to get two out of the three major pillars of the Longhorn vision delivered to us on top of the existing XP/Windows 2003 kernels: Indigo and Avalon. The only major pillar being dropped is the elusive database oriented storage system: WinFS.
Indigo is a no brainer. It’s been common knowledge (google cached link here, since Don’s permalink seems to be broken) for some time now that it was going to work on older platforms anyway. I can’t see Indigo suffering in any way, shape or form as a result of this announcement.
Avalon on the other hand was based on some features of the new display driver model that was going to be introduced in Longhorn. Avalon counts on leveraging the machine’s GPU to it’s fullest extent to do a lot of its rendering. The problem with today’s model is that for things like DirectX applications to get the maximum performance while rendering, they must take over the whole GPU. Avalon requires scheduling and sharing of the GPU. As a result of this difference, I can see some (hopefully minor) cutbacks in Avalon features as a result of the underlying platform not being able to provide all of the support it needs to work its magic. It will definitely be interesting to see how Microsoft solves this particular problem.
As for WinFS, yeah it definitely sucks that we’re losing it, but I’d rather they get it right before they unleash it into the wild. I really like where they’re going with it and the existing design/feature set is good, but still needs some work. I think it will be the storage system of the future, but if it was going to hold up the delivery of the rest of the pillars then this was a wise decision on Microsoft’s part and I believe it’s in the best interest of everyone who develops for or uses Windows.
In all, I think this decision was a wise one and that we are going to get a lot of technology advancements that are important to building better applications in a more timely fashion as a result.