Microsoft revealed previously that WinFS will run on top of rather than replace its existing NTFS (NT File System). But last week the company revealed WinFS will tie into XML-based data storage, enabling developers to exploit standard XML interfaces to data previously locked up in desktop applications.
"The fact that we can start to view information in a consistent way and sort in a consistent way is important," said Ted Schandler, research director at Forrester Research. "Instead of five different storage formats on the client, you've got one. And that's a big deal."
But Schandler and several others reserved their highest praise for Indigo. According to Microsoft Director of Web Services Marketing Steven VanRoekel, Indigo is "a comprehensive implementation of messaging technology" that includes such draft Web services protocols as WS-Policy, WS-Security, WS-Trust, WS-Federation, WS-ReliableMessaging, WS-Coordination, and more.
"Indigo is the closest thing I've seen to XML-based middleware, pure Web-services-based middleware," said John Rhymer, vice president of Giga Research. "People have been talking about this for four years, and here you've got it. It looks like a really good piece of work."
VanRoekel insisted that Indigo goes beyond conventional middleware in its ability to provide standardized, message-based communications to desktop applications. As a part of the Longhorn environment, it changes the way developers view the applications they build from the bottom up, enabling them to assume secure, coordinated, message-based connectivity to other applications from the outset.
"If you're thinking about Web services, you're immediately faced with the kinds of problems that Indigo is meant to solve," Directions on Microsoft's DeMichillie said. "How do I do secure Web services? How do I do Web services that participate in business transactions? So Indigo is the piece I think most corporate developers are going to go home and … immediately start playing with it, at least in an early form."
Make that "very early." Questions as to why Indigo, WinFS, and Avalon were being unveiled years before Longhorn will ship circulated throughout the conference. The darker view was summed up by Giga's Rhymer: "Any discussion of Longhorn at this stage of the game is so, so early that it looked to me like freezing-the-market tactics. It really looked like this is part of the [anti-]Linux campaign."
According to Microsoft representatives, the company used PDC to solicit developer feedback in order to refine its plans. Microsoft also needs developers to create killer Longhorn apps to make the platform's benefits crystal clear — and to drive upgrades to yet another new generation of Windows-based computing.