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Having scaled back the vision for Longhorn, Microsoft is re-setting expectations to help drive enthusiasm around the delayed operating system.

Chief executive Steve Ballmer was on the Longhorn stump this week calling the repeatedly delayed operating system a platform for the next 10 years.

At the Microsoft's Management Summit (MMS) in Las Vegas, he outlined six key features, or "pillars". His comments come after Microsoft last year ripped the guts from the Longhorn vision that had been laid-out by Microsoft's chief software architect, Bill Gates, in 2003.

Speaking at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles, California, that year, Gates equated Longhorn with Windows 95, calling Longhorn Microsoft's biggest release of the decade. He unveiled three systems he believed would grant Longhorn that status: the WinFS storage subsystem - christened Longhorn's "Holy Grail" by Gates - the WinFX mark-up architecture and Avalon XML interface, and the Indigo web services communications layer.

Last year, though, Microsoft removed WinFS, Indigo and elements of Avalon and re-scheduled them as add-ins to Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP so Longhorn could hit Microsoft's revised 2006 product shipment date.

Microsoft has focused since then on more bread-and-butter operating system features to sell Longhorn around scalability, security, management and reliability.

Sure enough, Ballmer re-enforced that message at MMS, classifying Longhorn's six pillars as support for 64-bit chip sets, calling search "one of the primary enhancements", saying there’d been a "lot of work" to make Longhorn easier to deploy and manage, improvements to make sure Windows "really just works" without complexity and hassle, and updates to both home and mobile computing. Ballmer claimed Longhorn would take 70 per cent fewer reboots than previous versions of Windows.

He termed this the “new" Longhorn. "I think what most people know on a historical basis doesn't really reflect what we will ship next year," he said. ®

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