WinFS Resurrected for Windows Vista?

Microsoft's next-generation WinFS file system has been the subject of much confusion over the past two years, and that apparently hasn't changed - even with Windows Vista Beta 1 out the door. The company is reportedly putting the finishing touches on a WinFS preview release, which will be introduced at next month's Professional Developers Conference.

WinFS, or Windows Future Storage, was originally slated to sit atop NTFS and track metadata for all files on a system to improve organizing, searching and sharing of information. Applications could also store data directly in WinFS, which is based on Microsoft's SQL Server 2005 technology.

Despite all of the initial fanfare at PDC 2003, however, WinFS was shelved last year as Microsoft cut back features to ensure its next version of Windows would launch on schedule. In March, rumors swirled that WinFS would be back-ported to Windows XP, seemingly a reversal of prior plans.

But Microsoft officials downplayed such speculation, telling BetaNews, "The full version of WinFS will be delivered subsequent to Longhorn and also will ship as a part of Windows in future releases of the operating system."

Now it appears that WinFS has been given a reprieve, and could make an appearance alongside Windows Vista. WinFS preview code, possibly a first beta release, is expected to be issued to developers at Microsoft's PDC 2005. The company has also scheduled four WinFS-related sessions for the PDC.

Sources are reporting to Microsoft Watch that WinFS is also on track with efforts to back-port the technology to Windows XP. Vista's other fundamentals, Avalon and Indigo, were ported to XP to ensure developers had enough time to test the new APIs prior to launch.

Still, Microsoft remains cagey about its WinFS plans. In March, company officials promised "we are on track to deliver a rich, comprehensive solution for programming and storage," but offered no other details or specifics of where and when.

Developers are betting PDC 2005 will at long last clear the haze around WinFS, with hopes that Microsoft will take a firm stance regarding what features will -- and won't -- make it into Windows Vista when the operating system ships in late 2006.

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