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All’s quiet on the cyberterrorism front, but Microsoft’s
Longhorn and other releases loom large on the horizon. Let’s take a look.


As of my deadline, no big new vulnerabilities or patches had
cropped up this week to report. This relative calm gives me the opportunity to discuss
an issue that, while not as urgent, is equally important.

With Windows XP rapidly aging—despite the Service Pack 2
upgrade—it’s time to consider just what changes are in store for Windows over
the next few years. Currently in development at Redmond are Longhorn (the next
Microsoft OS), the reworked WinFS file system, and the Avalon and Indigo
components of WinFX, Microsoft’s next-generation programming model.

Indigo and Avalon are both components of WinFX, a new programming
interface initially expected to ship around the same time as Longhorn. However,
Microsoft has announced that it will release Indigo and Avalon for both Windows
Server 2003 and Windows XP, rather than wait for Longhorn’s debut, meaning
these development tools are much closer to realization than the distant release
of Longhorn.

Avalon is the unified presentation subsystem for Windows, which
includes a display engine and a managed-code framework. Its purpose is to help
developers create more user-unique experiences.

Indigo, Microsoft’s new Web services development package, is
the service-oriented communications infrastructure built on top of Web services
protocols. Its purpose is to provide more secure and reliable messaging.

The simplest way to understand Indigo is to look at what it
will integrate from earlier platforms. Here’s how it stands now:

  • For interoperable
    Web services, turn to ASMX (ASP.NET Web services).
  • .NET
    Remoting implemented .NET Communication.
  • Enterprise
    Services includes Distributed Transactions and the like.
  • You
    can find support for WS-* Specifications in Web Services Enhancements.
  • For
    Queued Messaging development, look to Microsoft Message Queuing.

Indigo integrates all of these tools. After its release,
developers can just turn to Indigo for all of these tasks. Indigo will support
Java2, J2EE, and other OS platforms, including Solaris, Linux, and OS/2. In
addition, it will explicitly support service-oriented development.

On March 15, Microsoft released a Community Technology
Preview of Indigo and a second preview of Avalon, along with the WinFX SDK, to MSDN
subscribers. The release includes compilers, tools, libraries, and
documentation. For more information, check out these resources:

WinFS is a relational database technology that improves
search capabilities, making it easier to find files, documents, and e-mail
messages on workstations and local networks. WinFS was originally going to be
another important component of Longhorn (along with WinFX), but it now appears
that Microsoft will delay WinFS well past Longhorn’s release. The company’s current
plan is to release WinFS (SQL Server 2005 technology) as an update for

By the way, if Microsoft’s CIA-like code-name fascination is
getting a bit confusing, I’d like to point out that another code-name, Lonestar—anyone
else think all of the Texas-type cattle names for a company in Washington is
strange?—is just the name for the Windows XP Tablet PC operating system after
installing SP2.

Final word

It’s long, strange trip time: Microsoft has gone from
touting Longhorn as the event of the decade (Bill Gates, at the 2003 Longhorn
Professional Developers Conference, called it “the biggest [release] since
Windows 95”) to paring down key features to meet the 2006 release deadline.
And that deadline’s only for the
client version; the server version will take a year longer. If it keeps losing
parts, will Longhorn even be worth looking at?

This leaves Longhorn as little more than a shell of its
former self—just an incremental successor to XP.

Also watch for …

Unemployment in the IT industry: Have you noticed that all
that hype about outsourcing has completely disappeared from the headlines? It
turns out it was mostly a bit of election hype.

The good news is that there really isn’t a shortage of IT
jobs—there are just new places to look. If you’re sitting in Silicon Valley and
bemoaning your poor job outlook, consider Fairfax, VA. (Disclaimer: I lived
there for several years and think it’s a pretty decent place to live and work.)
I believe the current unemployment rate is hovering around 1.5 percent, and
tons of IT jobs are going wanting.

John McCormick is a security consultant and well-known author in the field of IT, with more than 17,000 published articles. He has written the IT Locksmith column for TechRepublic for more than four years.