Longhorn looking good

Whistler has long been the northern playground for Microsoft employees at the company’s Redmond, Washington campus, and has figured heavily among the software giant’s pet names for different Windows products.

The Windows XP release, which joined Windows NT and Windows 9X versions into a single operating system, was released under the code name ‘Whistler’.

The second edition of Windows XP, scheduled to hit the market in early 2005, is code named "Longhorn" after Whistler’s Longhorn Saloon, one of the most notorious apres ski locales in North America.

The next Windows XP update after Longhorn is being developed under the code name of Blackcomb.

Microsoft gave professional developers, who will be building the software for Longhorn, a sneak peak at a beta of the new operating system last week, and the early word on the street is that it’s going to be good.

The usually secretive Microsoft let the developers in on a few internal projects related to the update, and even gave developers a copy of the early code to get started on. With open source operating systems based on Linux gaining ground in the marketplace, the move to share elements of Longhorn with developers this early in the game shows Microsoft may be embracing the times after all. Although they’re not giving it away like Linux, sharing the code will enable other companies to develop software that works with the system, while keeping an eye out for bugs, glitches and security holes.

Three components of Longhorn are particularly interesting. The first upgrade is WinFS (short for Windows Future Store), a file management system that is universal to a wide array of Windows applications and is backwards compatible with other Windows operating systems.

Another Longhorn innovation is Indigo, a messaging tool.

Avalon is a new presentation platform that updates the look and feel of the operating system, adding 3D elements, new taskbars, and more.

Longhorn also updates the graphic capability of Windows, utilizing the power of next generation graphic cards to support Avalon and other applications.

A completely new version of Windows Explorer is also on the way that will allow users to block pop-up windows and manage downloads.

The final version for 2005 will no doubt look and operate a lot differently than the Longhorn developers got a preview of last week, but the presentation got the point across nicely.

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