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The most interesting feature that was ever connected to what eventually became Vista was WinFS, a revolutionary (so it seemed, at least back then) new way of storing and accessing information on a computer.

This feature was cut despite actually reaching a closed alpha/technical preview release. There was a smoke and mirrors blog post from MS about the technology living on in an upcoming SQL server release, but to me it just felt like it was axed, hard.

Does anyone have any idea what happened to it? Is it killed, or just on the backburner? Was it just impossible to implement, too expensive, or did someone think of a better idea?

Are there any projects (From MS or anyone else) that have similar goals?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I don't think anyone really knows.

The most up to date information I can find is an interview with Quentin Clark in which he says that "most of WinFS either already has shipped, or will ship" just in other forms, such as part of SQL server or the ADO.net entity framework.

I personally suspect it was one of those projects that was poorly defined from the start. It was all things to all people and consequently could never fully realise all it's goals. It seems that all the research that went into the various different aspects of WinFS eventually grew into separate projects and became parts of other things.

You can see from this development timeline that it's been an ongoing project since 1990. that makes it one of the few software projects that actually been in development longer than Duke Nukem Forever

[Edit: For completeness, here is some other info I found - WinFS Blog - Last updated June 2006. The last entry basically says WinFS was not dead but is no longer a separate product, it was planned to incorporate the tech into other products like SQL server and ado.net]


New information (May 2010):

I found this article which talks about the features of WinFS that have survived and live on in some form in Windows7.

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That interview was a good find, I got more info than I thought I would when I wrote the question. Thanks! –  Console Jul 23 '09 at 12:22
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+1: development longer than Duke Nukem Forever –  naxa Apr 18 '13 at 16:50

It became part of SQL server 2008.

I worked on a team that had a partnership with microsoft to demonstrate the feature by integrating it with our product's data storage. there's a white paper floating about on the MS site (and frequently appears on the register) outlining the Marketing Bulls... uhh.. technology integration involved. if you look at my profile, that might give you a clue what to look for...

edit: I believe this is the feature it became

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Other reasons WinFS never appeared could be due to marketing and profit. The only area Microsoft can increase profits is the sale of Vista to someone already running XP. Vista licenses for new PCs are instead of XP licenses and don't increase profit. So, you need to convince people they need to upgrade XP to Vista. Outside of users of this site, the idea of a new file system is nowhere near enough to fork out the cash for a new OS. A new, shiny GUI is a much easier sell and more likely to make those additional sales.

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This was not the reason at all: - It was an RND project. - Many of it's features migrated to other projects. - NTFS is deployed too widely. - It might have alienated users. –  Jonathan C Dickinson Jul 23 '09 at 17:30

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