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Bill Gates Says Biggest Product Regret Was WinFS Data Storage

Data developers were interested to learn this week that it was a futuristic data storage product called WinFS that Bill Gates identified as the Microsoft product he most regretted not making it to market.

In a live question-and-answer event on called Ask Me Anything, the legendary Microsoft co-founder answered dozens of questions from readers. While he was most concerned with the charitable work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, many questions inevitably focused on his Microsoft and programming days.

Here's the exchange about the database product:

Q: What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market?

A: We had a rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time. This is an idea that will remerge since your cloud store will be rich with schema rather than just a bunch of files and the client will be a partial replica of it with rich schema understanding.

When another reader guessed that it might be WinFS, Gates answered in the affirmative. Another reader wondered if the OS mentioned was Vista, and Gates replied that: "Vista was what eventually shipped but Winfs had been dropped by then."

According to Wikipedia, WinFS is short for Windows Future Storage, described as:

the code name for a cancelled data storage and management system project based on relational databases, developed by Microsoft and first demonstrated in 2003 as an advanced storage subsystem for the Microsoft Windows operating system, designed for persistence and management of structured, semi-structured as well as unstructured data.

I found it interesting to learn that even way back then, Microsoft was thinking ahead to the cloud, and then, as now, it's all about the data.

What did you think about Gates' AMA session? Please comment here or send me an e-mail.

Posted by David Ramel on 02/15/2013

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