The rumours of WinFS' death have been greatly exaggerated, according to Tom Rizzo, Microsoft's director of product management for SQL Server, who said the next-generation file and storage system is currently being backported for Windows XP, according to a report.

Rizzo told industry journal Microsoft Watch that the company is planning to give a public update on WinFS at this September's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), but in the meantime is working on a Windows XP version. Rizzo didn't clarify whether Windows Server 2003 would also get a WinFS port.

WinFS was originally intended to be one of the key features of Longhorn, the next iteration of Windows, which will theoretically arrive on the client side next year. It's designed to break data away from individual applications and interfaces so it can be stored and shared universally, and to allow data searches across the desktop, the network and Web services. In November, Bill Gates called it the "Holy Grail", saying it is the realisation of a 10-year dream.

But since August, when Microsoft made it official that the system wouldn't be included in the initial release of Longhorn, WinFS' future has been in doubt. WinFS will still be in beta form when the Longhorn client ships, and it will not be in the server version of Longhorn due to ship in 2007, Microsoft said. The earliest Windows Server will get WinFS would be the first update of Longhorn Server, and it's conceivable the file system won't arrive in this decade, said Windows Server chief Bob Muglia in December.

Such pronouncements have led some to wonder whether Microsoft had decided to drop WinFS, and the company hasn't given any details on its plans. Rizzo's comments, published on Friday, reveal that WinFS could have a similar future to other Longhorn-generation technologies.

Microsoft has long said it would back-port "Avalon", Longhorn's presentation system, and "Indigo", its communications subsystem, for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Now it appears WinFS will join these two core technologies, leaving some to wonder exactly what the difference will be between Windows XP and Longhorn. Analyst group Gartner said Longhorn was increasingly looking like a stopgap release, and recommended businesses to stick with Windows XP.

Microsoft has said it is porting the technologies in order to ensure backward compatibility and to drive developer interest. The company needs the technologies to be as widely available as possible if they are to gather any momentum, industry observers have said.

While Longhorn won't initially include WinFS it will offer local desktop searching as a hint of the power in WinFS' relational database capabilities, Microsoft has said.