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Microsoft Struts Its Stuff

Microsoft is certain to showcase many of the new products in glitzy demos during the analyst-day event -- eye-popping video-game graphics for Xbox 360 are a no-brainer. But of most interest to investors will be what Microsoft has to say about its two cash cows -- Windows and Office.

"I think what really gets people excited is the core product cycle -- Longhorn Vista and Office 12," says Gus Zinn, an analyst with Waddell & Reed, which holds Microsoft shares.

Wednesday's slight lifting of the Vista lid revealed features that include a new user-interface and new software to create "Web services" -- which is a way for allowing different applications to talk to each other to enable more automation. In addition, Microsoft promises better security and search features.

But Michael Cherry, lead analyst for Windows and mobile at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft, says it's too early to judge Windows Vista because the beta lacks many features that will be in the final version, while many of the features it does contain are likely still quite rough.

Details, Details

So far, he says, "Microsoft hasn't really shown me any details that I can talk about and get excited about."

Some investors, however, are a little more upbeat about the next version of Windows. "I think Longhorn Vista is going to be amazing," Bonavico says. "I think there are great things you can do when computers talk to each other to take manual processes out of our hands."

But that doesn't mean he wants to hear "dreamy discussions of the future of technology." Indeed, he suggested the company may be suffering a bit from ivory-tower syndrome at its Redmond, Wash., headquarters.

As a result, "there have been big, big markets that they've been slow to respond to," he says.

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