Let’s take a moment to gaze into the future - The year is 2005 and Microsoft is releasing Windows Longhorn to the world; the operating system that will take over from Windows XP. Of course I’m not a fortune teller so I can’t predict exactly what the Operating System will be like however Microsoft have released a number of preview versions so this week I’ll be taking an educated guess as to what it is that we can expect.

“Longhorn” is actually the codename for the next incarnation of Windows and it is highly unlikely that the Operating System will be called “Windows Longhorn”; knowing Microsoft it will probably be something highly original such as Windows XP 2005 or Windows XP2.

To be quite fair I didn’t really have the inclination to install the ‘Alpha’ (early preview) release on one of my computers so the information here is going to be based on the reports of a number of people who have and reading through them it has become apparent that a lot of the improvements are going to be cosmetic. For example the Start Menu and task bar will be enhanced with a new Sidebar component that can optionally appear locked to one side of the desktop. Special effects will make the screen feel ‘deeper’ than the traditional flat Windows desktop although the drawback of this is that the Operating System will need higher end video equipment to display this; such special effects include Windows tumbling onto the screen, rotating windows, warped windows and alpha blending between windows.

Longhorn will include DVD recording abilities as standard which is especially important with the rapidly decreasing price of DVD recording technology.

As with Windows XP, Longhorn will ship in different versions such as Home Edition, Professional Edition, Tablet PC Edition (for Tablet PC’s – More about that in a future article) and so on.

Quite an interesting development is an add-in to the Windows NTFS file system which is known as Windows Future Storage (WinFS) and this system will allow all kinds of complex data searching which is not possible today. For example your email messages, contacts, Word documents, and music files are all currently completely separate however this won't be the case in Longhorn. Quite how this is going to work or how effective this will be I will not speculate on.

I’ve heard reports that Longhorn will be a faster Operating System than Windows XP although this can not be verified at such an early stage; apparently the setup routine when initially installing the application completes in around 15 minutes which bodes well in comparison to the 30-40 minute routine which is standard in Windows XP.

This is all I know so far; the beta (testing) edition comes out in 2004 and so obviously I will get my hands on a copy and review it for the Herald Express then.

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