Windows Longhorn

From Academic Kids

Longhorn is Microsoft's codename (for a full list see Microsoft codenames) for the next version of its Windows operating system, to follow on from Windows XP SP3 [1] ( and Windows Server 2003. It was originally expected to ship sometime early in 2006 as a minor step between Whistler and Windows Blackcomb (Longhorn is a name of a sports bar at the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort).

Gradually, Longhorn assimilated many important new features and technologies of Blackcomb. On August 27, 2004, Microsoft announced that they are delaying release of WinFS so that Longhorn could be released in "a reasonable timeframe" (officially marked as December of 2006). Two beta versions have been planned, the first expected to debut in Q2 2005 and the second in Q4 2005, with release candidates to be released throughout 2006.

Longhorn is currently available as a preview release available to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers, and at select Microsoft developer conferences. The preview release is classified as an alpha version at the moment, and as such its performance and feature sets are not necessarily representative of the release product. As with many products (including all Windows releases since 98) it has since been leaked onto popular file sharing networks.



Microsoft labels the key new technologies as "The Pillars of Longhorn", which are:

It is worth noting that Avalon, Indigo, and WinFX are technologies that will be made available to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 as well, and are therefore not technologies to be exclusive to Longhorn, but rather developed in time for the Longhorn release, to be incorporated in that operating system. This doesn't imply coming visual changes to these operating systems though, as Aero will still be exclusive to Longhorn. The reason for backporting these technologies is to allow an easier introduction to these technologies to developers and end users.

March 26th Microsoft released a Community Preview featuring both Avalon and Indigo to enable developers to experiment with the new technologies without running the Alpha version of Longhorn. Due to many requests it was released to the general public and is available at Microsoft's website [2] (

Delayed until future release

  • WinFS (short for either Windows Future Storage or Windows File System): a combined relational database and filesystem, based on the next version of SQL Server (codenamed Yukon). Working on top of NTFS, it will provide abilities to represent objects and their relationships, rather than just a hierarchy of files and folders. The removal of WinFS from Windows Longhorn was announced in August 2004, and is expected to be released as an update to Longhorn, entering beta stages at about the same time as Longhorn is released, but also will be ported to Windows XP to help end users along with the transition phase to Longhorn. Microsoft's promotion of this technology has spurred the recent trend towards desktop search tools.
  • Monad A new command-line interface called MSH, and codenamed Monad will no longer be included in Longhorn. It plans to combine the Unix pipes and filters philosophy with that of object-oriented programming.


Additionally, Longhorn will include many other new features.


Longhorn will include a completely re-designed user interface, code-named Aero. The new interface is intended to be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than previous Windows interfaces. The most visible addition to the interface is the sidebar, an area at the side of the screen consisting of tiles which display dynamic information about whatever window is currently in the foreground, which is essentially an extension of the "system tray" on the Windows task bar. Note that the sidebar had been removed as part of the WinHEC 2005 release (Build 5048).


Longhorn will feature a brand new search engine which will allow for instant display of results for a given search. This is in contrast to the search engine of Windows XP, which can take several minutes to display results. The Longhorn search will allow you to add multiple filters to continually refine your search (Such as "File contains the word 'example'"). There will also be saved searches which will act as Virtual Folders, where opening a folder will execute a specific search automatically and display the results as a normal folder. The search will also feature other usability improvements. The Longhorn search is actually built on an expanded and improved version of the indexing service for the search in Windows XP.


Metro is the codename for Microsoft's next generation document format, which is based on XML. It is similar in many ways to Adobe Systems' PDF. Metro is intended to allow users to view, print, and archive files without the original program that created it. The name Metro also refers to the print path in Longhorn. With Metro, documents can remain in the same format from the time they are created to the time they are printed. Microsoft states that Metro will provide better fidelity to the original document by using a consistent format for both screen and print output.

While many analysts suspect Metro is intended to be a "PDF-killer," Microsoft insists that they are not attempting to duplicate all the functionality of the PDF. For example, at the time of this writing, Metro is not planned to have the capabilities for dynamic documents.

Other Features

  • Full support for the "NX" (No-Execute) feature of processors. This feature, present in AMD's AMD64 architecture, as well as Intel's EM64T Architecture, can flag certain parts of memory as containing data instead of executable code, which prevents overflow errors from resulting in arbitrary code execution. This should not be confused with trusted computing facilities provided by a so-called Fritz-chip.
  • Built-in DVD recording capabilities, including Mt. Rainier support.
  • A new installation program that will install Longhorn in about 15 minutes (which is present in alpha build 4074 of Windows Longhorn).
  • The "My" prefixes will be dropped, so "My Documents" will just be "Documents", "My Computer" will just be "Computer", etc.

Graphics hardware requirements

Longhorn's graphics requirements are defined in relation to the different desktop experiences.

Aero Glass

This graphics mode adds support for 3D graphics, animation and visual special effects in addition to the features offered by Aero Express.

  • Intended for mainstream and high-end graphics cards.
  • At least 64 MB of graphics memory, 128 MB recommended, or 256 MB for 1600x1200+.
  • At least 32 bits per pixel.
  • 3D hardware acceleration with capabilities equal to DirectX 9.
  • A memory bandwidth of 2 GB / second.
  • Capable of drawing ~1.5M triangles / second, one window being ~150 triangles.
  • A graphics card that uses AGP 4X or PCI Express 8-lane bus.

Although this may appear expensive by today's standards, it is likely that such a configuration will be entry-level or lower by Longhorn's release.

Aero Diamond

A graphics mode customized for the Longhorn Media Center Edition, and will not be made available in the other editions.

Aero Express

The lesser Aero visual experience offering only the basic visual improvements introduced by Longhorn, such as composition based DPI scaling.

  • Intended for mainstream or lower-end graphics cards.
  • Uses the Avalon Desktop Composition window manager.
  • A Longhorn Driver Display Model (LDDM) driver is a requirement.

To Go

The new Longhorn look & feel without any visual special effects, similar to the visual style Luna of Windows XP in that it resembles merely an application skin. As with Luna, no additional hardware requirements compared to the classic Windows interface.

  • A simple option for consumer upgrades, and mobile / low-cost devices.
  • No additional requirements compared to the lesser Classic mode.
  • Fallback mode in case the hardware requirements for Aero aren't met.


The most basic user interface offered by Longhorn, which is also seen in Windows 2000, or Windows XP with its visual style Luna deactivated.

  • An option for corporate deployments and upgrades.
  • Requires Windows XP Display Driver Model (XPDM) or LDDM drivers.
  • No graphics card hardware requirements exceeding those of Windows XP.


External links

  • Microsoft Longhorn Developer Center ( -- Developer information on Longhorn at MSDN.
  • Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows ( -- Detailed information regarding Longhorn, including screenshots.
    • PDC 2003 Section ( -- Information regarding Longhorn build 4051, released at PDC 2003.
  • GUIdebook: Windows Longhorn Gallery ( - A website dedicated to preserving and showcasing Graphical User Interfaces
  • Longhorn Blogs ( -- Non-corporate, community-based initiative of Microsoft's next version of Windows
  • Longhorn Buzz ( -- Non-corporate, community-based forums dedicated to Microsoft's next version of Windows
  • Longhorn News ( -- Non-corporate, community-based news site, dedicated to Longhorn news.
    • Gallery Section ( -- Screenshots from development versions of Longhorn.

History of Microsoft Windows
Windows: 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.x | NT | 95 | 98 | Me | 2000 | XP | Server 2003 | Server 2003 R2 | CE | Mobile | Longhorn | Blackcomb
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