Microsoft is expected to deliver its first draft of the delayed Longhorn OS next month, with some of its ambitious sub-system features trimmed down. If Longhorn is not ready in time for May's WinHEC hardware conference, Microsoft could lose goodwill from OEMs, developers and customers.
It is believed Microsoft will release alpha code for Longhorn, the first publicly available code for the operating system, at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), in Seattle, Washington, between 4 and 7 May.
Should Microsoft miss WinHEC, it risks costing developers' goodwill and throwing out hardware upgrade and development cycles. Longhorn's final delivery is now scheduled for the first half of 2006, having been pushed out from 2005.
Longhorn is being designed to utilize PC resources that are otherwise under used and could be better deployed to serving Windows. For example, Microsoft plans a graphics subsystem, codenamed Avalon, which use PCs' graphics subsystems to produce better-quality graphics and to remove load from processors.
However, Microsoft has warned that it will scale back features in Avalon, in Longhorn's WinFS storage subsystem, and in its Indigo web services architecture. The degree of scale-back is unclear, though, as Microsoft itself has not yet reached a final decision.
By releasing Longhorn code at WinHEC, Microsoft would give OEMs, device manufactures and customers their first peak into the operating system's hardware needs. WinHEC is Microsoft's premier hardware developers' conference. After WinHEC, customers could then begin buying adequately specified PCs while OEMs and developer begin their development cycles.
However, changes by Microsoft to the basic Longhorn footprint after WinHEC would require OEMs and developers to throw-out work based on the WinHEC code and to start again, while customers who bought PCs because of what they saw at WinHEC would be forced to scrap purchases, costing time, money and goodwill.
One feature that could be thrown out is Microsoft's Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), the digital rights management (DRM) system-on a chip architecture planned for Longhorn. Hardware manufacturers who would have to support NGSCB in products like graphics cards and mice have not been building for the system in large numbers, indicating this is one feature Microsoft can afford to drop for now.