Axing WinFS signals new web focus for Microsoft

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Axing WinFS signals new web focus for Microsoft

But software giant missed an opportunity to spin its recent decision.

Microsoft has uncharacteristically "missed an opportunity" to spin its recent decision to cancel the Windows File System (WinFS) as a positive step that will allow it to focus more effectively on the web.

A recent advisory by Gartner vice president and fellow David Mitchell Smith stated: "Microsoft missed a significant opportunity to turn this potentially negative announcement into a positive.

"It could have been chosen to show that Ray Ozzie as the new chief software architect is beginning his drive towards Windows Live by terminating projects that do not align with it.

"Despite the company's reluctance to point it out, we believe that Ray Ozzie is having an immediate positive impact by making the decision to end WinFS. He should gain respect internally and externally as a result."

According to Gartner, WinFS is a "monolithic software component that has come to an end, though the vision for integrated storage has not".

The analyst firm noted that WinFS was to have had an application programming interface as well as search capabilities, but Microsoft has had difficulty describing a compelling need for WinFS beyond the 80 per cent 'good enough' offering via simple search.

An equivalent 80 per cent 'good enough' solution is now available from desktop search solutions from Microsoft, Google, X1 and others, and is in Windows Vista beta.

Overall, the end of WinFS will benefit Microsoft and users of the company's products, Mitchell Smith believes.

"The vision around unified storage has distracted Microsoft going back to the 1990s operating system, codenamed Cairo, which never shipped," he said.

"The unified storage issue also contributing substantially to problems that led to the 2004 reset of Longhorn. When Microsoft announced it was removing WinFS from Longhorn, Gartner said there was a 30 per cent chance WinFS would never ship."

The decision to axe WinFS was made public on 23 June 2006, when Microsoft said on an internal blog that it will to deliver separate beta versions of WinFS, but will include more mature WinFS technologies in the next release of SQL Server, code-named Katmai.

The vendor also said it has no concrete plans for WinFS as part of its desktop operating systems.

Microsoft customers do not need to do anything at this time, Gartner advises. The analyst company noted that few if any companies had actively planned to deploy WinFS, so this announcement should have minimal impact.

"Microsoft will focus more on delivering offerings that better fit with its Live vision and the web, as opposed to projects that reflected Bill Gates's vision for the PC operating system," said Mitchell Smith.
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