I'm excited about Longhorn and Avalon in particular as that is what I'm working on. I thought as one of my first posts here I'd talk about the computer experience I personally see Avalon and Longhorn enabling.
I don't know if anyone else out there watches the CSI and CSI: Miami shows on television (presumably someone else watches them or they would not continue to make the show), they involve Crime Scene Investigators sifting through evidence to find the bad people responsible for the crime. It may not be the best TV show but my fiancé and I often enjoy watching it trying to guess who the bad guy is. However the thing that bugs me about that show (and a lot of other TV shows and films) is the way they show computers working, the computers on these shows have slick interfaces that flash up instant results of a query including a driver's license image and other related data, they offer 3D analysis of tire tread matching, shoe print matching, DNA matching etc etc., even the login screen is slick and inviting. Now we all know that no reasonable computer interface looks like that and although some of those things might be technically feasible today it would probably take more developer effort than could be justified by likely sales of shoe print matching software! At those points in the TV show I just choose to suspend reality and enjoy the show.So in Longhorn the technologies in Avalon are going to bring the types of user interfaces we see in these shows within the easy reach of developers. Great!
Well of course the cynical among you are probably saying something like “but I actually don't really want something that looks like what they show on TV“ well I'd probably agree with you as the TV shows are always going to show something a little more simplistic than a what might be used in the real world simply so that the viewer can easily follow the plot. That's not to say that elements of what is typically seen on TV aren't useful and isn't something we should provide in the next generation of computer solutions. For many people today computers remain too difficult to use and offering a glitch free user experience that guides you through getting a task done with animation helping show the flow of the task will I believe help here. There's a video of Real Estate on Longhorn at http://msdn.microsoft.com/longhorn/productinfo/ that shows what a future user experience might be with Longhorn. Watch the 3D flyover nearly half way through the video isn't that cool!
To me the vision for Avalon and Longhorn is to put in place a set of technologies that will allow us to offer the next generation of user experiences. Maybe one day I'll see someone using a computer in a movie and won't roll my eyes and sigh quietly in complete disbelief!