Microsoft considering WinFS support in Windows XP

WinFS is built on top of the current NTFS file system in Windows

Windows XP may be updated to support a new file system technology that Microsoft Corp. is working on for the next version of Windows.

Called WinFS, the technology promises to make it easier for users to find data stored on their computer. WinFS was originally slated to ship as part of the next Windows release, code-named Longhorn. Microsoft, however, last August pulled WinFS from Longhorn to be able to make a 2006 ship date for the operating system's release.

Microsoft now plans to have a beta-test version of WinFS available when Longhorn ships, probably late next year. While it develops the technology, Microsoft is also evaluating whether to make the storage system available on Windows XP, a company spokeswoman said in a statement sent via e-mail.

WinFS is built on top of the current New Technology File System (NTFS) in Windows and uses relational engine technology from Microsoft's forthcoming SQL Server 2005 database as well as XML. XML metadata tags should make it easier to find, for example, documents and e-mail messages on a computer, Microsoft has said.

If Microsoft does add support for WinFS to Windows XP, the operating system will support all three key Longhorn components as outlined by Microsoft at its Professional Developers Conference in October 2003. Microsoft last August said it would add support for the Longhorn Avalon graphics system, as well as the Longhorn Indigo communications subsystem, to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Additionally, Microsoft has said Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 will be updated to support the WinFX application programming model that it had planned for Longhorn.

Support for the future technologies in the older operating systems will allow software makers to target a much larger installed base. Microsoft's previous plans potentially meant that applications developed for Longhorn would run only on Longhorn systems. Microsoft has not said anything about support for WinFS in Windows Server 2003.

Although Microsoft plans to support key Longhorn technologies in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, the company has said the next Windows release will still be worth the upgrade. Much of the value will likely come from the Longhorn "fundamentals" -- the core operating system technologies.

Microsoft has referred to WinFS, Avalon and Indigo as the three pillars of Longhorn, which would include security features and technology to make sure applications and drivers don't conflict, for example.

A first beta of Longhorn is set to ship by the end of June. Microsoft is expected to hand out a pre-beta preview release at the Microsoft Windows Hardware Engineering Conference late next month.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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