REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 15, 2003 -- It is only weeks since Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates outlined a vision for "seamless computing" at COMDEX Las Vegas 2003. But the technology breakthroughs behind that vision -- of software that breaks down the barriers between people, systems and information -- have shaped many of the products and services Microsoft released in 2003. It also will prove vital to many releases slated for 2004 and in coming years.
Many of 2003's most notable Microsoft releases -- ranging from the Windows Server 2003 to the Visual Studio .NET 2003 development system -- rely heavily on XML Web services and other standards to evolve toward a seamless computing experience, one in which applications can access and share data across multiple form factors and computing platforms. That vision also is at the heart of the next version of the Windows operating system, code-named "Longhorn," which Microsoft first previewed for software developers in October this year, as well as the next version of Visual Studio, code-named "Whidbey" and expected to be delivered to developers in beta version in 2004.
Microsoft Office 2003, launched in October, extends these benefits to information workers through such new Office applications as OneNote, the note-taking program, and InfoPath, which uses dynamic forms to simplify business information-gathering. Other Microsoft releases in 2003 and anticipated for 2004 embrace another tenet of the vision: extending computing to new experiences and evolving richer user interfaces. The September launch of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 promised to bring to the PC a growing number of consumer-electronics features, while the arrival in November of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2004 brought deeper integration of pen support to the Tablet PC. Next year's planned arrival of Portable Media Centers will use Windows Mobile software to provide access to digital media virtually anywhere. Also in 2004: Smart Watches with MSN Direct service will bring the power of personal computing to the wristwatch, Microsoft Speech technologies will enable more businesses to offer speech as a computing interface, and a new version of MSN's all-in-one Internet service will provide online tools and services designed to make the Web more useful for subscribers.
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