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What's Been Yanked From Vista, And When

WinFS, the Nomad scripting language, a new PC firmware standard--all were once upon a time features in the operating system.

Gregg Keizer

June 26, 2006

5 Min Read

The disappearance of WinFS from Microsoft's next-generation Windows Vista operating system came as "no surprise" Monday to industry analysts such as Directions on Microsoft's Michael Cherry.

"The only thing that was a surprise was that even though they promoted it as much as they did, it never got any traction," said Cherry. "It just seemed dead from the start."

WinFS -- which truth be told was yanked from Vista back in August 2004 -- wasn't the last (first?) piece of the OS to get the hook.

"I think we're aware of [dropped features] in Vista because they started promoting pieces of it so early," Cherry said. "It's like the tree in the forest. If we didn't know about a feature, would we have heard about it being dropped?"

Any long-term development project suffers cuts, and Vista's no exception. "The long development cycle had something to do with it, certainly. And I don't think it's any different than earlier Windows, other than we have heard about more because of the early promotion and long cycle."

What follows is a list of the most prominent feature departures from Windows Vista, once called "Longhorn":

Next-Generation Secure Computing Base, May 2004: This ambitious security platform -- code named "Palladium" -- was first touted nearly five years ago, but got the ax, then was revived, all in the space of a couple of days. At a 2004 WinHEC, Mario Juarez, a Microsoft product manager, said "NGSCB is alive and kicking" and promised that the technology would make an appearance in Vista (then, of course, still called "Longhorn"). NGSCB was to lock out some kinds of malicious code, but was heavily criticized for requiring new PCs and raising privacy questions regarding copyrighted content. Some elements of NGSCB have survived in Vista, however; "Secure Startup," which is meant to keep thieves from getting to data on a stolen system, is the most prominent. (Stolen notebook PCs have made headlines of late as several filched PCs have contained massive numbers of personal records and identities.)

WinFS, August 2004: A relational database layer based on SQL Server 2005, Windows Future Storage was to lay atop the existing NTFS file system in Vista and provide new-found search functions for the operating system. It would also allow users to create "virtual folders" holding pointers to a broad range of data, including that in files and e-mail contact lists. But nearly two years ago, Microsoft announced (to substantial criticism) that it was pulling WinFS from Vista itself. Instead, it would release the file overlay as a separate product. It had made progress there -- Beta 2 was expected shortly, and several sessions highlighted it at the recent TechEd conference -- but now it will not appear as a separate product. Cherry, of Directions on Microsoft, said events had overtaken WinFS, at least within Vista. "It's been replaced by the improvements in desktop search," he said.

Monad, August 2005: This command-line interface and scripting language, more formally known as Windows PowerShell (and before that Microsoft Shell, or MSH), was to be included with Vista and provide the OS with a Unix-like shell. Instead, the technology was pulled from the Vista feature list in an announcement, of all things, by a program manager at the Microsoft Security Response Center. A brief flurry of proof-of-concept viruses that targeted Vista got a reaction from Stephen Toulouse of the MSRC, who told users "Monad will not be included in the final version of Windows Vistaso these potential viruses do not affect Windows Vista or any other version of Windows if Monad has not been installed on the system." Monad, said Toulouse, might appear in Windows 3-to-5 years downstream. For now, it's an integral part only of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, which is slated for a final release later this year or early in 2007.

UEFI Support, March 2006: At an Intel developer conference, Microsoft said that Vista would not support the new PC firmware standard, dubbed UEFI (for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) that is meant to replace the 20-year-old BIOS technology as the boot infrastructure. Instead, support for UEFI -- often shortened to EFI -- will appear in the still-unnamed server edition of Vista and follow-on 64-bit versions of the client OS. EFI made an appearance in several news stories earlier in the year as Macintosh users began exploring dual-boot scenarios for the new Intel-powered machines from Apple Computer. The Intel Mac line relies on EFI.

SecurID Support, May 2006: Although Bill Gates himself touted Windows Vista support for RSA's popular SecurID technology (and tokens), that support evaporated last month. Then, RSA chief executive Art Coviello revealed that Vista would not natively support the two-factor authentication technology, but might make it into future updates of the upcoming OS. (Typically, Microsoft releases a first service pack approximately 12-18 months after the debut of a new OS.)

PC-to-PC Sync, June 2006: One of several synchronization features planned for Vista -- all to be wrapped into a "Sync Center" -- PC-to-PC Sync would have synchronized files and folders between machines running Vista. The feature was cut before Windows Vista Beta 2 was released, Microsoft said, because "we don't have it at the quality level our customers demand."

XPS Support [Sort of], June 2006: Bowing to what it said were litigation threats from Adobe, Microsoft yanked the Save As PDF feature from its upcoming Office 2007 suite, and also modified its stance on XPS (XML Paper Specification), which will appear in Vista. The electronic document format -- seen by most as a competitor to Adobe's popular PDF (Portable Document Format) -- will remain in the operating system, but can be ditched by computer makers as they pre-load Vista onto machines. Early in June, a Microsoft program manager said that "in order to accommodate Adobe's concerns, we have made it so OEMs making PCs can choose to not include XPS as part of Windows."

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