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Microsoft toots its Longhorn

Longhorn, Indigo, Whidbey, Yukon. If you know which Microsoft products these code names are associated with, you win a prize. If you can remember any of their features after the barrage of news from this week's Professional Developers Conference, you're on your way to the Geek Hall of Fame.

Let's start with Longhorn, the star of this L.A. show. Bill Gates called this future Windows operating system the biggest thing since Windows 95. The chief software architect ticked off features such as unified stores, content indexing and self-organization. He also showed off the interface for Longhorn, which isn't expected to be released until late 2005, at the earliest. A beta version of Longhorn will come out in the middle of next year, according to Jim Allchin, vice president of Microsoft's platforms group.

Allchin also said Lonestar, Microsoft's prerelease name for its Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, is set to come out in the first half of 2004.

Fanning the Web services flames

Prior to PDC, speculation had reached a fever pitch about whether Microsoft would snap up a Web services vendor. Chief executive Steve Ballmer had fanned the flames the week before at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo by telling attendees to "stand by for news" this week. Such an acquisition hasn't materialized -- yet -- but Microsoft had plenty to say in L.A. about Web services.

At this week's conference, Microsoft gave developers an early look at Indigo, a communications component for Windows that allows Web services messages to be sent back and forth regardless of whether they are based on .NET, J2EE, CORBA or DCOM, according to Steve VanRoekel, Microsoft's director of Web services. He said Indigo will serve as the glue that holds together various technology layers.

Web services will also play a greater role in Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), Redmond's server management product -- which is due for its own facelift in 2004. Microsoft said it has developed the MOM Connector Framework so that customers will be able to integrate MOM with third-party management software platforms. It also signed up a number of Web services management vendors to provide add-ons to MOM, so that the platform will be able to monitor and manage applications that are specifically "exposed" as Web services.

SQL Server, Visual Studio updates

On the .NET front, Microsoft vice president Gordon Mangione told PDC attendees that Yukon, the next version of the SQL Server database, will come bundled with .NET developer tools. And Eric Rudder, Microsoft's top server and tools executive, promised that Whidbey -- the next version of the Visual Studio developer tool set -- will help programmers develop applications using a lot less code than they are accustomed to now.

One future product that wasn't discussed at PDC but which made news this week anyway was System Center. Microsoft plans to use this under-development management package to cobble together the capabilities of Systems Management Server 2003 (desktop management) and Microsoft Operations Manager 2004 (server management) after those products make their debuts this year and next, respectively.

The news here is that Microsoft is changing a product's direction in direct response to customer feedback.

David Hamilton, director of product management in Microsoft's enterprise management group, told's Margie Semilof that Microsoft will provide some functional independence between desktop and server administration because administrators want it that way.

Now that's customer service.


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