Update: Jon Udell addresses this today from another angle, i.e. the query language instead of the data model. Here's his conclusion: It's about smooth interop between the next-gen Windows filesystem and the larger ecosystem it will play in. If Microsoft will be getting into the role of "schema provider" they'll have to do better than their recent Office XML provisions. The rest of us want multiple platforms and an unencumbered standard.
Microsoft will obviously drive the initial schemas required by the core system - such as Contact - but where will it go from there?
Nothing two years away in the computer industry is obvious to me. One thing that is not obvious at all to me is why wait two years?
For one thing, Macromedia has a pretty good story with Central, which is based on Flash, is in beta already, and already includes a growing list of initial schemas, such as Contact. A second example is Chandler, which will also have a repository of arbitrary types of Items, including an initial set for the functionality that will come out of the box. Both Central and Chandler are attempts at a multi-application framework for "rich clients" bases on semi-structured information.
I could guess how such a set of schemas could be aided by WinFS, but is Microsoft making this point themselves? How do we know they'll get it right? Is there a convincing reason to wait for WinFS to begin?
I think we have what we need for the back end and front end of a new ecosystem of semi-structured information. I don't see how waiting two years or so for Microsoft is going to help. The key will be evolving these multiple attempts to be more aware of each other, not to wait for Microsoft to eventually get around to duplicating these ideas in some singular vision.