Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Avalon FAQ bloopers

1. From the Longhorn Developer FAQ, November 2003:

Q: "Why can’t Avalon and XAML be made to work on Windows XP or Windows 2000?"

A: "[...] As for technical reasons, put it this way, to use Avalon on Windows XP or before will require ripping out the entire existing rendering system (GDI) and replacing it with Avalon. That’s a lot of money and a lot of testing for questionable return value, considering the majority of XP or 2K machines will likely not be capable of taking much advantage of Avalon. Why spend what would probably amount to millions on development and thousands of hours of additional testing to deliver an overall reduced product for a system that has no use for it anyway? Replacing a subsystem is not a patch, it’s a version upgrade.
Longhorn is not a patch, it’s a new version."

Link: http://msdn.microsoft.com/Longhorn/Support/lhdevfaq/default.aspx#Q_Avalon_DownLevelSupport
(Check it quickly, before it's gone)

2. From an interview with Bill Gates, August 2004:

"[...] there are changes in all the pillars, but in the case of Indigo and Avalon, it's mainly the addition of the down-level support. All XP users, not just Longhorn users, will be able to download the software."

Link: http://news.com.com/Gates%3A+Longhorn+changed+to+make+deadlines/2008-1016_3-5327377.html?tag=nl


I have two reactions to this:

1. Microsoft can't even get their story straight.  Let's remember this the next time Microsoft says something like "we can't *possibly* make IE work without tying it into every nook and cranny of the operating system."  Looks like when they're motivated enough they can do things they had previously considered virtually impossible.

2. Why *did* Microsoft decide to allow down-level support of Avalon?  The argument in the Longhorn Developer FAQ is pretty compelling: people with older computers (and therefore older operating systems) will not be able to take advantage of Avalon.  Are they going to all this trouble just to support people who had bought computers shortly before Longhonr was released?

Oren
Saturday, August 28, 2004

Some speculation...

One problem is Visual Studio 2005 and .NET 2.0. Those products are nearly done except for testing, documentation and some add-ons (like that Team stuff), and they include full Avalon support. If they didn't release Avalon for XP, programmers would have a library without a target system.

Also, people might hesitate to upgrade to XP or Server 2003 if Longhorn/Server with tons of new functionality is just around the corner. Given that MS can't deliver Longhorn before 2006 it makes sense to bolster sales of existing Windows versions in the meantime.

Chris Nahr
Saturday, August 28, 2004

"One problem is Visual Studio 2005 and .NET 2.0. Those products are nearly done except for testing, documentation and some add-ons (like that Team stuff), and they include full Avalon support. "

They do? Not from what I've seen/heard.

Chris Altmann
Saturday, August 28, 2004

And this "Avalon XP" won't be available till Longhorn ships. It benefits existing XP desktops and the ISV targeting them at that point, but doesn't do much for them between now and then, other than provide a broader potential market for Avalon based software.

Chris Altmann
Saturday, August 28, 2004

If you want to develop Avalon specific code then you would have to wait a long time while your userbase installs Longhorn.  However, if they have XP (which MS will be hoping for by 2006 I guess) then it would be reasonable to develop Avalon specific code as you just need to install some extra stuff for XP.  Not as bad as forcing users to upgrade OS.

Steven
Saturday, August 28, 2004

Actually, from what I've read a while back, all the Avalon and Indigo stuff were add-ons to the Windows Core.  They just weren't planning on making it available elsewhere.  The Windows SuperSite talked about this in detail.

The note about taking advantage of computers makes sense from a HARDWARE perspective.  Windows 2000 and XP had minimum support specs and backward compatibility issues.  They did not take advantage of new tech that is now available.  Almost every new computer has a powerful graphics card now for instance.

John R. Troy
Saturday, August 28, 2004

We've discussed this before, and it boils down to the fact that it's a classic chicken-egg problem, as Steven mentioned: If Avalon is Longhorn only, then ISVs would ignore it until it had a very sizeable penetration - Like > 90% (remember that there are ISVs that avoid .NET because it doesn't run on Windows 95, and somewhere there's a corporation that insists that client apps run on that old Windows 95 desktop they have sitting in a corner).

Microsoft does have a legitimate reason for not wanting to backport Avalon - it costs them money to develop, and there's little economic reward for backporting. That's fair from a business perspective, though they then realized that the development community has absolutely no interest in a fringe technology.

I would suggest to Microsoft that they release Avalon on XP as a "compatibility layer" (they can spin some bullshit about how the core system blah blah blah), with reduced performance and reduced asthetics - developers can feel good that their apps will run on the large installed XP community (esp. once Longhorn comes out), and the user community will have a reason to upgrade.

BTW: The previous post about VS 2005 is misinformed - VS 2005 has nothing to do with Avalon. That's the next release of VS (Orcas - http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/productinfo/roadmap.aspx) is the Longhorn wave.

Dennis Forbes
Saturday, August 28, 2004

"The note about taking advantage of computers makes sense from a HARDWARE perspective.  Windows 2000 and XP had minimum support specs and backward compatibility issues.  They did not take advantage of new tech that is now available.  Almost every new computer has a powerful graphics card now for instance."

Sure they take advantage of new hardware - It's called DirectX or OpenGL. What people need to remember is that explorer.exe is simply an application, albeit the default shell: There is absolutely nothing stopping you from implementing a fully 3D shell right now (there is most certainly no limit in utilizing the hardware).

Dennis Forbes
Saturday, August 28, 2004

I meant to say the DEFAULT OS doesn't take advantage of the graphics system.  Games are fine but they need to more or less force Windows to support hi-res graphics by default for the basic operations, natively in the kernel.

John R. Troy
Saturday, August 28, 2004

"Games are fine but they need to more or less force Windows to support hi-res graphics by default for the basic operations, natively in the kernel."

See, you're buying into the "revolution!" argument a little too much. The video drivers, where the HAL talks to the hardware, is already in "the kernel" - there is absolutely complete facilities for 3D right now. Nothing is being held back.

What Microsoft is offering with Longhorn is a nice 3D shell, but also a API 3D library (nothing to do with the kernel - this library just talks to those drivers mentioned in the prior sentence) that because it's from Microsoft becomes the standard. Avalon is basically an application an an interface library, which is exactly why they can backport it to XP.

Dennis Forbes
Saturday, August 28, 2004

Originally with the release of XP DirectX support on Windows 2000 was frozen and there were all sorts of statements about DirectX not being developed for Win2k in the future.

This was changed when Win2K replacement was sluggish and games manufacturers lobbied Microsoft.

Simon Lucy
Saturday, August 28, 2004

"This was changed when Win2K replacement was sluggish and games manufacturers lobbied Microsoft."

Humorously, and proof that Microsoft doesn't learn, I remember way back when 2000 was targeted at being the merge generation between the consumer and professional OS' (before the disaster ME was foisted on the world), a mouthpiece of Microsoft proclaimed that the next, revolutionairy version of DirectX would only be available on the 2000 line - it wouldn't be available on any of the prior OS'. Of course just like in the situation you mentioned the game companies basically said "Okay then we're not interested" and Microsoft recanted. It's funny how history repeats itself.

Dennis Forbes
Saturday, August 28, 2004

And repeats itself ad infinitum.

I remember when I was working for Tandon we had a meeting of all the technical managers in Frankfurt along with the then European Marketing  Manager from Microsoft (who was French and seemed to like silk suits ), who tried to tell us that DOS was dead and that we'd have to ship OS/2.

He seemed surprised when we jointly told him that he either supplied DOS with equivalent features to DR DOS or we'd just ship that.

As every other OEM told them the same story, out came DOS 5.

Simon Lucy
Sunday, August 29, 2004

Backporting didn't get any cheaper since that 2003 FAQ entry. What might have changed is the perception on the "benefits" side of things.
a> In a software subscription model, it doesn't matter on which version you run, as long as you keep the subscription. Giving you an "improved" XP is as much an incentive as giving you "Longhorn"
b> The market has been sufficiently dragged down by "good enough" software (for many scenarios anything beyond W2K is more a "luxury" option, imagine how much more solidified XP shops are going to be), so that Longhorn "exclusive" features that require code adaptations to run on earlier systems will take 10 years longer to get tracktion than an equivalent "no touch, grabs better stuff without recompiles" option. Getting your customer base onto a new "baseline" to differentiate yourself from an onrolling commoditization wave is hard.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, August 30, 2004

Just wanted to add this http://www.simplegeek.com/PermaLink.aspx/8ccbbce9-0ec7-408f-9209-6ef233850dbb for reference.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, August 30, 2004

Subscriptions or not, most enterprises take years to adopt new platforms. As we've talked about many times when comparing Windows versus Linux, the TCO is hardly affected by the cost of the software. In fact most enterprises only grudgingly switch the new OS', even those on subscription plans, when Microsoft drops support.

What has changed since 2003? Nothing has changed except that the product has gotten a little closer to reality, and reality has to incorporated into the plans a little more. The strength of the Windows platform is ISVs and software library (I mean - why didn't we all jump on BeOS given how advanced of an OS it was?), and once again Microsoft was pretending that this didn't matter. Once again ISVs showed no interest in a fringe technology, and once again Microsoft recanted. This is history repeating itself over and over again.

Regarding the link you gave, I find this absolutely hilarious:

"To really do multiple 3D applications running simultaneously with a composited desktop, we needed to make the GPU a shared resource. "

Eat it up, kids, eat it up. You know those dozens of full featured 3D apps that you run simultaneously in windows - it's just your imagination - Longhorn is going to bring an innovative new technology that will let you do this.

Dennis Forbes
Monday, August 30, 2004

Ah but it will only let you do it if you have the latest hardware.

Subscription models for software are all very well but if they require hardware upgrades in order to take advantage of all this WinFX crap its not going  to make a bean of difference.

Simon Lucy
Monday, August 30, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home