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When Microsoft announced a year ago that it had decided to rip the next-generation Windows File System (WinFS) from Longhorn, many company watchers wrote off the feature as little more than vaporware.

But it seems Microsoft didn’t simply shelve WinFS. According to sources close to the company, Microsoft just last week put the finishing touches on the first beta release of WinFS. And the company is moving ahead with plans to back-port the WinFS technology to Windows XP, the same way that it decided to do with the Windows Communication Foundation (Indigo) and Windows Presentation Foundation (Avalon) Windows subsystems.

On Aug. 27 last year, company officials acknowledged that WinFS would fail to make it into either Longhorn client (now known as Windows Vista), due in 2006, or Longhorn Server, due in 2007. Instead, officials said, the new plan was to make Beta 1 of WinFS available to developers around the same time that Vista shipped.

Originally touted by Microsoft top brass as the crux of Longhorn/Vista, WinFS was set to be a platform for organizing, searching for and sharing all kinds of data and information. Microsoft described WinFS as a revolutionary storage platform that would include schemas for everything from images and documents, to people, tasks and events.

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Now, after clamming up about WinFS for a year, it sounds like Microsoft might be ready to talk about WinFS again.

Microsoft could make early WinFS bits available in some form as soon as the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC), slated for mid-September in Los Angeles, according to sources. Microsoft officials have said to expect the company to provide an updated release of the Vista code in the form of some kind of post-Beta-1 release, at the confab, but have declined to comment on what WinFS-related code developers can expect to receive there.

While Microsoft internally christened the recently competed internal WinFS build as “Beta 1,” according to one partner, it’s not clear what the company will dub any kind of WinFS build that might be distributed at the PDC. One source close to the company said he’d expect it to be a “technology preview,” or alpha, build at best. Microsoft also might opt to release the first cut of WinFS as a software-development kit of some kind, the source, who requested anonymity, added.

Read the full story on MicrosoftWatch: Microsoft Readying WinFS Beta Bits?