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Software // Enterprise Applications

Microsoft Code Release Marks Another Step Toward Longhorn

Enhancements such as online video support and a new security offering are included in this preview of the code behind the next version of Windows. The release is aimed at developers.

Windows developers on Monday got a look at new and improved prerelease Longhorn code, along with their first glimpses of a security feature Microsoft plans to ship with its next operating system.

The company posted to its Microsoft Developer Network Web site "beta 1 release candidate" versions of Avalon, a 3-D graphics technology it's developing; and Indigo, software for building peer-to-peer applications. Microsoft plans to include final versions of both in the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn and due late next year. Microsoft also released to developers on Monday code for building apps that use InfoCard technology, potentially a new way for PC users to store credentials to Web apps.

This is the second time Microsoft is making code available to select audiences. These releases are aimed at developers who are getting ready for Longhorn, which would be the first major new version of desktop Windows since 2001. These--plus special compatibility extensions for the beta version of Microsoft's next set of development tools--follow "community technology preview" versions of Avalon and Indigo released in March. Microsoft since then has also made the APIs to Avalon and Indigo available to users of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Microsoft is slated to release a beta version of the operating system this summer.

Here's what's changed under the hood of the code Microsoft released Monday:

• Indigo gets a feature called "peer channel" for building apps such as online chat, business workspace and virtual whiteboard programs, and multiplayer games, without the need for centralized servers. It works with HTTP or TCP.

• The Indigo code also includes improved integration with older Microsoft technologies MSMQ for messaging, and the COM+ object model, lead product manager Ari Bixhorn says.

• Avalon apps will support online video, and Microsoft delivered technology for reading documents built with Metro, a PDF alternative under development for viewing and printing documents without the app that created them.

• This is the first time developers get their hands on code for InfoCard, which would let users create a virtual index card containing information they need to log on to apps built with Indigo. Users' data would live on their PCs or on the computers of E-commerce companies they deal with, but not on Microsoft's servers, says Michael Stephenson, director of product management. "This is designed to put control back in the hands of end users."

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