A test version of WinFS — which was plucked out of Longhorn/Vista a year ago — appeared on the Microsoft Developer Network this week (read News.com article). This will be followed up with multiple betas next year. Microsoft is going to be distributing this separately from the OS, similar to the way the .NET Framework is distributed.

My question is, “Without being part of Vista, does it still matter?” A database-like file system is theoretically great and certainly has some logical advantages, but if the FS is not built directly into the OS then it’s chance to make a major impact is limited. Plus, one of its theoretical main advantages — better data searches, locally and globally — may be accomplished with other technologies by the time WinFS is released.

Am I missing something big here? If so, I hope someone will chime in on how they see WinFS making a major impact on computing.