Microsoft on Monday gave its most detailed look yet at the next version of Windows, code-named "Longhorn," which features new methods of storing files, a complete revamping of the graphics, tighter links to the Internet and greater security.
At the company's Professional Developers Conference here, Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates previewed Longhorn and the world's largest software maker's long-term development goals to the people who will build the applications that work on the new operating system.
Such applications have long been crucial to the success of Microsoft's flagship software, Windows, which runs on more than 95 percent of the world's personal computers.
Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates promised that Longhorn would be Microsoft's largest software launch this decade and the biggest since its Windows 95 operating system.
Gates gave mostly a forward-looking address, something of a state-of-the-software presentation looking at architecture and inter-connected services.
"A lot of people nowadays are sort of pessimistic about what technology will bring," he told a packed audience at the Los Angeles Convention Center. "Certainly there is a lot of things Microsoft has to do."
For the next generation of software, Gates promised software advances like speech recognition and synthesis, integrated telephone services and better graphics.
"It's very clear we're at the beginning of this process," Gates told the developers. "We need your feedback. We need your involvement to get this right."
Microsoft said that Longhorn would tackle one of the key problems facing computer users today -- an overload of information and hard-to-find files.
"We see oceans of information," said Adam Sohn, a product manager for Microsoft's platform strategy and partner group, told Reuters ahead of the presentation.
"There are a bunch of things going on that we find very interesting, and they're not necessarily all brand new, but they're gaining a lot of prevalence,"
During Gates' address, a Microsoft staffer gave a demonstration of Longhorn, highlighting among other features the "sidebar," an area on the right side of the screen capable of dynamically displaying messaging lists, stock quotes, news feeds, times and pictures.
Microsoft is expected at some point during the day to tell developers when they can expect a "beta," or pre-release test version, of the new operating system.
Sohn said Microsoft would not focus on the timing of the consumer release, although final versions of software usually follow the beta anywhere between 3 months to a year.
The company is set to talk about the four key "buckets" it sees comprising Longhorn: fundamentals like security and scalability, new presentation technology that includes a rebuilding of Windows' graphics system, a new file-storage system called WinFS that makes heavy use of XML, extensible markup language data, and new Web services and communications technology.
A demonstration of WinFS featured a method to "stack" documents by author in a window, with the heights of the stacks corresponding to the number of documents, as well as file views that showed snapshots of documents, rather than just file names.
The company also unveiled "WinFX," which it described as a new application-programming model for Windows that is the evolution of its .NET programming framework.
In the shorter term, Gates said Microsoft would have a "beta" for the second service pack of its Windows XP operating system this year and a "beta" for the first service pack of the Windows Server 2003 system in the first half of 2004.