Right now, Longhorn is grabbing most of the attention, but it is only part of the road map that Microsoft has laid out. Major initiatives in systems management, security, collaborative applications and mobile computing are in the hands of partners and developers. Further down the road, CTO and collaboration software guru Ray Ozzie's fingerprints may be all over Microsoft's applications and general approach to computing.
But where are Microsoft's products headed in the immediate future? Based on the results of high-profile court cases in the United States and Europe, you might wrongly assume Microsoft would build a litigation-proof strategy of product separation and distinction. But Microsoft executives consistently talk about greater integration of functions into the operating system and tighter coordination of applications. As XML becomes the Microsoft standard for describing data within and between applications, broad horizontal frameworks that tie front-end and back-end systems--as envisioned by the "Office as Platform" initiative--will become the model for development across the company's product lines.
One of the drivers of many Microsoft initiatives is the company's greater sensitivity to the charges that its applications and operating systems are insecure. Many of the Office platform enhancements are based on authenticating each user and drawing user privileges and access levels from an Active Directory database. Improvements in the messaging platform and mobile computing applications will make it easier for authenticated users to carry that authentication with them throughout an enterprise, so they can securely access information from any location. Also, Microsoft's server improvements include significant enhancements to the process of updating and validating server code, and all Microsoft operating systems (which now have a common code base across client and server versions) can take advantage of No-Execute features in current-generation CPUs.
The total picture is of a company that has its range of products moving in unison, with Longhorn as both the rallying cry and the goal. As with most technology, however, the details are critical. --Curtis Franklin Jr.