WinFS is no more. At least not as a separate product to be released as an add-on to Windows Vista and XP some time after Windows Vista itself is released. Parts of the WinFS technologies will be released as part of the .NET wave codenamed "Orcas" and SQL Server "Katmai" (SQL Server vNext if you will). This was announced today on the WinFS blog by Quentin Clark.
Let me start with some historical background.
WinFS was introduced at PDC03 as the metadata-rich user-data store for Windows Vista (or "Longhorn" as it was known) based on SQL Server 2005 (or "Yukon" as it was known then). It was to combine the power of a relational database with a file system. With rich and fast query capabilities for content and metadata. Hence it has also been called: Windows Future Storage and Windows File System. The "Future" part proved prophetic: WinFS was slashed from Windows Vista, because it wouldn't be done in time, even though Windows Vista itself was already delayed.
WinFS Beta 1 was released in August 2005, and I posted an analysis.
The world has changed since then. Tools like
MSNWindows Live Desktop Search and Google Desktop Search have filled some of the search void that WinFS was meant to fill. Windows Vista and Office 2007 will ship with integrated search solutions. Actually ones that work well, instead of the troubled desktop search (Indexing Service) that shipped with Windows XP. The WinFS project continued to struggle with realizing the vision. LINQ has emerged. The ADO.NET Entity Framework has been announced.
"The Entities features we are now building in ADO.NET started as things we were building for the WinFS API."
"We are choosing now to take the unstructured data support and auto-admin work and deliver it in the next release of MS SQL Server, codenamed Katmai."
"These changes do mean that we are not pursuing a separate delivery of WinFS, including the previously planned Beta 2 release. With most of our effort now working towards productizing mature aspects of the WinFS project into SQL and ADO.NET, we do not need to deliver a separate WinFS offering."
Productizing only mature aspects means that inmature features will not be productized yet. Quentin doesn't go into what features will not make the cut. Note that Quentin has repositioned WinFS as an incubation project, productizing features as they are ready.
Paul Mooney posted photographs of a couple of interesting slides from the TechEd 2006 presentation "Building on WinFS: Developing a Great WinFS App from Scratch". The summary slide says "WinFS is the new data platform for the desktop" (my emphasis). I thought there was supposed to be a server story for WinFS as well...
[Update 2006-06-24: Changed the title to more accurately reflect this post.]