Microsoft Offers an Appetizer

The company offers a closer look at its upcoming Windows and Word editions.
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Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

paraded the next version of its flagship Windows and Office software Tuesday at its annual developers' conference, touting closer integration of applications as well as a new interface.

"In late 2006 when these products come out, they will be a wave," Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said in his keynote speech in Los Angeles. "The vision here is about connecting people to the information they care about."

Gates touted the next version of Office, called Office 12, as the most significant update to the software in 10 years.

Microsoft plans to launch the new versions of Windows, called Vista, and Office 12 with the largest marketing campaign ever, Gates said. Those launches, however, come later than originally planned and about five years after the last version of Windows, XP, was released.

Jim Allchin, group vice president of platforms, noted that Microsoft expects more than 60 million new PCs to ship during the first 90 to 120 days after Vista's launch -- more than the total number of new PCs that shipped in all of 1995. "It's mind-blowing," he said.

"Each year about 500 million people go and buy Windows-related devices," Allchin added. "That's a massive opportunity for us."

In anticipation of the new products, Microsoft's professional developers' conference attracted a record crowd and double the number of exhibitors than ever before, Gates said. Among some of the new features in Vista and Office 12 that Microsoft showed off:

A new sidebar in Windows to give quick access to data and applications as well as a new small screen on the monitor of a laptop called a "sideshow" that also features mini-applications. For instance, the sideshow monitor might let a user access email or check flight information without opening the laptop.

A new parental control window to manage children's access to the entire system, including games and content.

New anti-phishing features in Internet Explorer that prevent users from entering a malevolent Web site. Internet Explorer also will have new tabs and quicktabs to more quickly move between Web sites and pages.

New features in both Internet Explorer and Outlook supporting RSS syndication feeds.

In Office, faster, easier access to features in Word, Excel and PowerPoint to create richer documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Microsoft has added live previews in each program so that users can quickly see changes before they are made, including changing fonts or altering a table.

"Every user becomes a power user with this new user interface," quipped a Microsoft executive who demonstrated the new products during Gates' keynote.

Shares of Microsoft recently fell 8 cents, or 0.3%, to $26.53.