Microsoft has announced that its new OS, Longhorn, won't have as many features as it originally intended.

The company has decided to reduce the planned storage subsystem, which means this highly-touted feature won't appear in the OS when it ships in 2006.

"I question what is left of Longhorn. I just don't know until we have more details," said Peter Pawlak, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, an independent research firm. "What will be the difference [in Longhorn] from a Windows XP box with WinFX?" says Pawlak.

Forget the hype?

The changes make Longhorn more of an evolution from Windows XP rather than the revolution in desktop computing that Microsoft has been touting, Microsoft officials admitted.

"The path to get to our very ambitious vision for Windows is different and is more evolutionary in appearance rather than one big leap like we have described in the past (with Longhorn)," says Greg Sullivan, lead product manager for the Windows client group at Microsoft.

Dream the impossible dream

At its Professional Developers Conference in November, where Microsoft distributed a pre-alpha version of Longhorn, Microsoft's chief software architect Bill Gates said Longhorn would provide opportunities for developers that would be stronger over the next decade than at any time in history.

Now that seems only like tough talk as Longhorn's key constructs will clearly develop on a more gradual schedule.

The delay of WinFS is what really takes the shine off Longhorn. Gates said at the PDC in November that WinFS was the realization of a ten-year dream for him around search technology and termed it his "Holy Grail."

WinFS, the storage subsystem planned for Longhorn, is designed to break data away from individual applications and interfaces so it can be stored and shared universally at the platform level. It also would allow data searches that stretch across the desktop PC, the network and Web services.

The first beta of Longhorn is expected in ship next year.