Microsoft Backing RSS? We’ll See…

If you can’t innovate, jump in front and pretend it’s your parade. Microsoft may be doing that for RSS feeds.

(Not sure what RSS is? Read my RSS backgrounder. If you get the CONTENTIOUS RSS feed, you might want to take my quick RSS survey.)

On Oct. 27, 2003, CNet reported that one of the features demonstrated in a not-so-secret “sneak preview” of the next Microsoft operating system, Longhorn, was “news and other information streamed onto the desktop via RSS feed.”

That’s right – a feed reader built right into the operating system. Some eager-beaver developers are already playing around with this feature.

Cool – maybe.

Reality-check: We are talking about Microsoft, after all…

First of all: Who knows when Longhorn might really hit the streets? Its schedule, like with most major Microsoft products, is a moving (or rather, stalling) target. Right now, 2006 is a cautious estimate. A lot can happen between now and then.

Second: Who knows what kind of RSS functionality, if any, will make it into the eventual release of Longhorn? Currently there’s a lot of buzz in the Weblog and Microsoft developer communities about Longhorn and RSS. However, is RSS really a big deal to Microsoft? The feed-reader feature appears to have been mentioned by Microsoft only in passing in early rough-draft previews of Longhorn. That’s not exactly a firm commitment. It’s more of a “Gee whiz, this might be cool…” gesture.

…Still, it would be great to subscribe to and read RSS feeds directly from the operating system, without having to rely on additional software. For RSS to go truly mainstream, it must become simpler and more intuitive. Right now it’s still too geeky for most people – even though it’s not really difficult to understand or use. For many Net users, the “extra software” consideration is just one hurdle too many on the road to enjoying RSS.

Longhorn sounds like a step in the right direction, at least in terms of RSS. I just hope it doesn’t turn out to be a bunch of bull. (Hey – Shouldn’t Microsoft’s marketing gurus know better by now than to choose a product name with that sort of pun potential?)