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Cairo (and WinFS) revisited

Interestingly enough Jon Udell, whom I mentioned in my post about Cairo/Longhorn the other day, was writing up a great article with similar ideas for InfoWorld, including his own take on Cairo, Longhorn, and what the web is and how MS can affect it:

[...] the Web is much more than the browser. It's an ecosystem whose social and information structures co-evolve. Innovation bubbles up from the grassroots; integration can happen spontaneously; relationships cross borders. Cairo Version 1 wasn't designed to nourish that ecosystem or to flourish in it. Let's hope Microsoft remembers the past and avoids being condemned to repeat it with Cairo Version 2.
Agreed 100%.

In an entry on his blog he points to my own post, and talks about the history of how he took it on himself to maintain Byte's archives, and some of the problems of maintaining "digital continuity." (I've been thinking about that too--more on soon).

Then, in comments, Ole pointed to X1 which does full text search on Windows PCs as a similar idea to WinFS, Longhorn's new filesystem et. al. I have tried X1 and found it interesting, but it freaked me out by showing up all the time and being surprisingly difficult to remove. So I stopped using it. Others might have a better experience though :)

Finally, Robert replied to my post (mis-spelling my name once again--by now this has all the makings of an in-joke ;-)), saying that WinFS vanished because

I've heard that this is the fifth time that we've tried something like WinFS, but previous tries never got out of the lab. Why not?

Simple: customer testing. Whenever we come up with an idea, we have real customers go into a lab here and try out the product. If the performance, or the UI, or something else keeps it from being useful it doesn't get released.

Hm. This explanation is not complete. Suppose you show it to users. They hate it. What do you do then? Ditch it, or go back to the drawing board? Well, it depends (as I said on my post) on resources. With a company of MS's size and resources, the only thing that explains ditching WinFS is a change of priorities. Otherwise you keep at it until it works. (And, again, I refuse to entertain the notion that "it couldn't be done"--especially when others have done it!) I'll stick with this idea until I am convinced otherwise. :)

This still doesn't explain what happened to all that code either, or what, exactly, didn't work back then. Was it the speed? (Ole, btw, has been asking about that issue for a while now, and hasn't seen a good reply for it AFAIK). And that aside, the fifth time?? Really??? If that is true, it's a scary thought. The technology is definitely doable. I certainly can't believe (as I said) that Microsoft can't do it, so it sounds like there's a lot of resource-shifting going on. Weird.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 23 2003 at 4:56 PM

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