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Microsoft decides to drop WinFS
Seattle Times technology reporter
WinFS, a once-prominent Microsoft technology for intelligent searching of computer files, was demoted last summer from a key feature of the flagship Windows Vista operating system to a stand-alone product without a schedule for release.
Now Microsoft says WinFS won't be released on its own at all. Instead, the best pieces of the software will be parceled out to other products.
The much-touted WinFS was to have a new file-storage mechanism that would keep more attributes of each file. The idea was to make possible complex queries — such as a search for all a user's vacation pictures — that require more information about a file's contents.
Word of WinFS's fate trickled out in a cryptic Microsoft Web log on Friday and has since been clarified and confirmed by the company.
Portions of WinFS technology will go into a tool for software developers and the next release of SQL Server, a database-management platform.
A Microsoft spokesman cast the decision as good news Tuesday.
"Lots of the technology inside of the WinFS really matured," said Corey Thomas, SQL Server group product manager. "Actually, certain parts of it fulfilled a need that we had to deliver in our Data Platform Strategy."
WinFS was dropped from Vista in what company executives described at the time as a trade-off to get the operating system completed in a timely manner. The release of Vista has since been delayed again and is now scheduled for November for large customers and January 2007 for the general public, though some observers say it may be out even later.
Test versions of Vista still include several of the file search, storage and organization features WinFS was meant to provide, but those features are achieved in Vista with different technology, Thomas said.
And with desktop-search applications from Google, Microsoft and others that can be used on the current version of Windows, "the need for a new file system maybe goes away," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.
Thomas said it's too early to discuss whether WinFS would make an appearance in future versions of Windows.
Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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