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Is WinFS About Lock-In?

Wednesday 16 June, 2004, 02:29 PM

I'm a bit behind here, but I just got around to reading John Udell's item on WinFS here. He believes WinFS is designed as a lock-in technology, and uses the following quote:

The great fortunes of the information age lie in the hands of companies that have successfully established proprietary architectures that are used by a large installed base of locked-in customers. And many of the biggest headaches of the information age are visited upon companies that are locked into information systems that are inferior, orphaned, or monopolistically supplied.

The thing is, the way I've heard WinFS presented to date is that far from promoting lock-in, it's all about avoiding this scenario. One of the motiviations for WinFS I've heard many times now is to move away from isolated 'silos' of information only accessible to the applications that create the information. The theory is that if everything goes into WinFS rather than proprietary application-specific databases (which is what happens today) the value of the information will be massively increased because it is now accessible to all.

This suggests that WinFS is trying to do the opposite of what John Udell thinks it is doing. Although it's possible that I simply failed to understand John's point...

You're still locked into Windows of course, and maybe that's his point. But surely that's an improvement on being locked into a specific Windows application.

I wonder if this non-lock-in aspect may well cause a lot of resistance to WinFS. The benefits that lock-in offers to the vendor might well cause them to ignore WinFS. If applications put their data in WinFS, customers may no longer be locked into the applications that put the data in there, because it will be accessible to other applications. (At least that's the theory. In practice, this assumes that other applications will be able to do anything useful with the data.)

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