A Review of Microsoft Technology for 2003, Preview for 2004

EDITORS’ UPDATES: Aug. 27, 2004
— Microsoft has announced it will target broad availability of “Longhorn” in 2006, and make key elements of the Windows WinFX developer platform in “Longhorn” available for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. See
press release
Dec. 17, 2003
— This article was updated to add a section on
Windows Embedded

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.

In the year ending, a variety of technology enhancements within Windows Server 2003, Systems Management Server 2003 and Microsoft Systems Architecture 2.0 underscored Microsoft’s continuing commitment to meeting the challenges of security, reliability and manageability. The company has additional advances planned in these areas with 2004 releases, including Microsoft Operations Manager and Microsoft System Center.

To provide additional insight into how Microsoft is working to advance its products and services and transform the computing experience, PressPass has compiled a summary of the company’s 2003 highlights and anticipated news in 2004:

  • Microsoft Business Solutions

  • Microsoft Hardware

  • Microsoft Office System

  • Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003

  • Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2003

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

  • MSN Premium, other broadband services

  • Portable Media Centers

  • Security Business Unit

  • Speech Technology

  • SQL Server

  • Tablet PC

  • Vertical-industry offerings

  • Windows “Longhorn,” Visual Studio “Whidbey”

  • Windows management

  • Windows Media 9 Series

  • Windows Media Center PCs

  • Windows Server 2003/Windows Small Business Server 2003

  • Windows Embedded

Microsoft Business Solutions Adds Communications, Collaboration Offerings

Microsoft Business Solutions dedicated much of the year to delivering new and upgraded products designed to help organizations gain the critical business insights needed to succeed in today’s highly competitive markets.

January saw the release of Microsoft Business Solutions Customer Relationship Management (Microsoft CRM), which supports and automates small and mid-sized organizations’ efforts to build lasting and profitable relationships with their customers. In October, Microsoft announced it had reached a milestone — 1,000 customers using Microsoft CRM version 1.0 in North America. Starting in December and continuing into the New Year, Microsoft Business Solutions is delivering version 1.2 of Microsoft CRM to customers worldwide, with nine different language versions.

To ensure that customers continue to receive high value from their business solutions and that partners receive exceptional business opportunities, Microsoft Business Solutions continues to make significant investments and enhancements across its core Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions. The April launch of Microsoft Business Solutions Business Portal, with further upgrades to the product in August, gave smaller organizations the means to create a single, Web-based point of access to information and processes for employees, suppliers and customers. Microsoft Business Network, introduced in October, paved the way for deeper collaboration by enabling businesses to link their entire network of suppliers and customers through a fully automated Microsoft .NET-connected solution. Other Microsoft Business Solutions product additions in 2003 included the release of Solomon 5.5, Navision 3.70, Great Plains 7.5, Retail Management System 1.2, Small Business Manager 7.5, and, from FRx Software, a Microsoft company and a part of Microsoft Business Solutions, Forecaster 6.7 and Integration Designer 1.0.

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Microsoft Delivers New Hardware to Improve Computing

In September, Microsoft built on its 20-year history of delivering groundbreaking and innovative computer hardware by adding a new lineup of mice, keyboard products, and broadband networking devices — designed to improve the way people interact with their computers and give consumers more desktop-personalization options.

Among the new devices are six new wireless mice and keyboards — the largest lineup of wireless products in the group’s history — with a variety of new features, including:

  • Tilt Wheel Technology: Reinvented mouse wheel delivers up-and-down and side-to-side scrolling, allowing users to move through documents more efficiently

  • Enhanced Microsoft Optical Technology: New power-saving Microsoft Optical Technology delivers more than six months of battery life for average use while maintaining mouse performance

  • Smart Receivers: The new wireless devices include Smart Receivers that reduce “cross-talk” between electronics and feature a wizard that guides users through steps to reduce interference.

  • My Favorites Keys: Five new buttons, available on select keyboards, can be easily set to deliver one-touch access to favorite files and Web sites.

  • Style: New colors, textures, graphics and textures, such as the feel of leather, give consumers an array of choices to reflect their lifestyle.

Also in September, Microsoft launched Wireless-G. This wireless networking solution is designed to offer easy set-up and breakthrough performance for sharing a broadband Internet connection, information files, printers and more between multiple computers. This new line-up employs Wi-Fi-certified 802.11g technology, which offers transmission speeds up to five times that of a typical 802.11b wireless network. Products include the Microsoft Broadband Networking Wireless Base Station, Microsoft Broadband Networking Wireless Notebook Adapter, Microsoft Broadband Networking Wireless PCI Adapter, and Microsoft Broadband Networking Xbox Wireless Adapter.

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Microsoft Office System Boosts Information Worker Productivity

One of Microsoft’s biggest product launches in 2003, the unveiling of the Microsoft Office System, introduced businesses to a new way of thinking about desktop productivity. Bringing together six suites, 11 new or updated Microsoft Office products, four servers, one Web service, and new solution accelerators, this integrated system of desktop programs, servers, and services was designed to seamlessly work together, enabling businesses to create unique, customized software solutions that meet their specific needs and transform information into business value.

In the U.S. alone, retail sales are approximately double the retail sales of Microsoft Office XP during its first few weeks on the market in 2001. Similarly, the number of business customers who have already purchased the rights to install Microsoft Office 2003 through Volume Licensing is about twice that of those who had purchased the rights for Microsoft Office XP when it launched. In addition, more than 18,000 customers have already downloaded a trial version of OneNote, with more new customers interested in this new note-taking application everyday.

In a recent study by Navigant Consulting Inc., 14 companies who deployed beta versions of the new Microsoft Office System experienced a median internal rate of return of 142 percent, and on average witnessed a payback of their investment in eight months, factoring in costs associated with hardware, software, deployment, and training.

Microsoft is rolling out additional offerings to help customers find even more value in their Microsoft Office System investments. The recently released Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System enables developers to build solutions for Word and Excel using Visual Basic .NET and Visual C# .NET. Additionally, for businesses looking to create rich-media presentations, Microsoft Producer for Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003 is now available to licensed users of PowerPoint 2003 and Microsoft PowerPoint version 2002.

Businesses can also look forward to more new Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators, built to help specific industries and professions customize Office to their computing needs, as well as the comprehensive, online Microsoft Office resources, Office Online and Tools for Your Job, accessible through the Microsoft.com Web site.

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Microsoft Extends Real-Time Communications to Businesses

To help bring the efficiencies of real-time communication to the business world, Microsoft launched the first version of its enterprise instant messaging (IM), presence and real-time collaboration platform and acquired PlaceWare Inc. to develop its next-generation Web conferencing service.

Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003 launched with the Microsoft Office System in October. In the past year, industry partners and customers — such as Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, Lockheed Martin, Siemens, Sybari and Reuters — teamed with Live Communications Server to build and deploy real-time collaboration solutions to increase productivity and effectiveness of communication within their workplaces or with customers.

The next version of Live Communications Server will include improvements to the already rich collaboration offerings, improved server management, support for federation scenarios — for companies that wish to link their Live Communications Server deployments — and tighter integration within the Microsoft Office System.

Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2003 , the company’s Web-conferencing solution, joined the Microsoft family this year after the April 2003 acquisition of wholly owned subsidiary PlaceWare Inc. The service, which formally launched in September, relieves the stress of balancing business travel, productivity and personal lives by offering a cost-cutting alternative to hopping on a plane and jetting to a business meeting. Key Live Meeting partnerships also were announced this year, including a deal with Sant Corporation and Kinko’s Inc.

In its next version, Live Meeting will receive enhancements designed to boost user efficiency and further integrate the service with the Microsoft Office System.

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Release of Exchange Server 2003 Marked By Security, Ease of Use and Value

In October, Microsoft launched Exchange Server 2003, the next edition of its messaging and collaboration server, as part of the Microsoft Office System. Exchange Server 2003, the most reliable and secure version of Exchange to date, has been developed with a focus on the experience of both the information worker and the IT administrator, ensuring superior end-to-end quality for customers. Improvements in productivity, manageability, and security provide a significant increase in value with Exchange 2003 that could lead to a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). The new release delivers increased productivity to information workers through security enhancements and new communications and scheduling tools.

Adding to the already strong anti-spam functionality in Exchange 2003, Microsoft added the Exchange Intelligent Message Filter in November. The filter performs heuristics-based analysis of e-mail to determine whether any message is junk e-mail. It adapts over time, constantly improving its ability to catch unwanted messages and prevent false positives.

The filter builds on security improvements to Exchange Server 2003 and Outlook 2003 that help block malicious content and spam before it ever gets to users’ inbox. Support for lists that permit or block certain senders, domain spoofing and a range of other spam-blocking and filtering techniques built into Exchange 2003 allow technology administrators to focus on maintaining a healthy network, thereby keeping users productive.

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MSN Expands User Base, Readies New Broadband Services

The past year has seen MSN extend its reign as the Web’s No. 1 destination, with more than 350 million unique users each month — a status MSN hopes to further solidify in 2004 with the Jan. 8 launch of a new line-up of free and subscription offerings designed to enhance the online experience of high-speed Internet subscribers. These new offerings include MSN Premium, the latest version of MSN’s all-in-one Internet subscription service; a revamped, free MSN.com home page, and MSN Video, a new, free broadband video service.

Buoyed by strong content from industry leaders like ESPN, Expedia, MSNBC, CNBC and leading communication services, MSN maintained its position as the worlds leading online destination, with MSNs free communications services attracting larger audiences than ever in 2003. The number of unique users of MSN Messenger instant messaging service grew to 110 million a month worldwide, while more than 145 million unique users visited MSN Hotmail in October, a new record high. Overall, the networks increased consumer reach has helped spur advertising growth, which helped MSN post its first operating profits during the first quarter of fiscal 2004. MSN plans to make additional investments in information services for consumers in 2004, including significant investments in the areas of online search and music.

In 2003, MSN also invested in building premium subscription services for broadband users that are seeking advanced communication tools. On January 8, MSN will introduce the new version of its all-in-one communication and security subscription service for broadband users, MSN Premium. The service, designed to meet the most persistent needs of broadband users, includes software that protects consumers from network attacks, junk e-mail and pop-up ads; provides enhanced e-mail, online-connection and other advanced communications options, and helps manage photos and other digital-lifestyle tasks online.

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Portable Media Centers Employ Windows Mobile to Extend Digital Media

Windows Mobile software will be at the heart of a new wave of portable digital media devices, expected to hit store shelves in the second half of 2004. Called Portable Media Centers, the devices provide Windows XP users immediate access away from their PC to all of their digital media, including digital videos, home movies, digital music, recorded television shows, digital photos, and even Photo Stories.

Leading device manufacturers Creative, iRiver International, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., SANYO Electric Co. Ltd., and ViewSonic Corp. have announced plans to develop Portable Media Centers. Building on the power of Windows Media Player and the Media Center Edition PC, Windows Mobile software for Portable Media Centers will enable people to store hundreds of hours of video and audio, and thousands of pictures on their devices.

Windows Mobile software for Portable Media Centers is built on Microsoft Windows CE .NET, the robust, real-time operating system designed to power the next generation of smart mobile and small-footprint devices. The software provides support for the leading Windows Media 9 Series audio and video formats, as well as MP3.

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New Microsoft Offerings Enhance Security

The Security Business Unit (SBU) continued to deliver in 2003 on Microsoft’s commitment to Trustworthy Computing, launching a Protect Your PC campaign to assist consumers, and, in May, joining forces with prominent anti-virus vendors such as Symantec, Computer Associates, and Network Associates to form the Virus Information Alliance (VIA) to ensure mutual products are more secure.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reinforced Microsoft’s commitment to security at the Worldwide Partner Conference in October when he outlined specific steps to address customer security concerns. These steps include improved patch-management procedures and a number of education and training programs such as the IT Pro Security Zone, a new monthly security Web cast, a new TechNet security bulletin search tool, a monthly security newsletter to IT Pros, and a bimonthly security newsletter to consumers.

In November, Microsoft launched Windows Rights Management Services (RMS) for Windows Server 2003 to help augment the security infrastructure of an enterprise or organization, and assist in protecting sensitive information.

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates demonstrated Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004 during his keynote at Comdex Las Vegas 2003 in November. Available for public beta early in 2004, ISA Server 2004 is designed to deliver new levels of application layer security, simplified management, integration, and fast Web access.

Also moving forward this year was the Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), a new security technology that will be a component of the next version of Windows, code-named “Longhorn.” Microsoft gave a first-ever demonstration of NGSCB at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in May, and later released a developer preview for NGSCB at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in October.

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Speech Technology Primed for Mainstream Adoption, Launch in 2004

This year, Microsoft and its industry partners completed testing and development of software designed to make speech a mainstream, pervasive way to interact with computing devices. This comprehensive package of technologies will debut in 2004.

The goal of these technologies is to enable more businesses — even medium-sized companies that previously couldn’t afford such technology — to introduce speech-enabled Help lines and customer call centers, and to create remote-computing options that allow workers speech-enabled access to Web-based information and applications information via standard telephones, cell phones and graphical user interface (GUI)-based devices such as Pocket PCs and smartphones.

In November, Microsoft released the second public beta version of Microsoft Speech Server, along with the fourth beta of its Speech Application Software Development Kit (SDK). These technologies are based on Speech Application Language Tags (SALT), an open, industry standard for building speech-enabled applications that can handle both telephony interaction (voice-in/voice-out) as well as multimodal interaction (voice-in/visual-out).

Scheduled for release in first quarter of 2004, Microsoft Speech Server, when used in conjunction with Speech Application SDK, will enable enterprises to deploy speech applications designed to improve employee productivity, increase customer satisfaction, create new revenue opportunities and reduce costs through streamlining Web and call-center infrastructures.

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Microsoft Prepares For Releases of SQL Server “Yukon” and Reporting Services

The SQL Server team will dedicate most of 2004 to preparing the next version of SQL Server, code-named “Yukon.” This release of SQL Server is designed to provide a richer user experience through major enhancements in scalability, availability, and manageability; business intelligence and deeper integration with developer tools. SQL Server “Yukon” Beta 2 is expected in the first half of 2004, with general availability targeted for the second half of 2004.

Also planned for January 2004, the SQL Server team will announce the availability of SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services. Reporting Services will provide an open and extensible platform that allows workers at all levels of a business to create and share interactive reports. This greater access to trend-analysis and other information will enable businesses to make more informed decisions. (To register for the Reporting Services launch Web cast: http://mssql.digisle.tv/ .)

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New Version of Tablet PC Makes Pen and Ink a More Natural Part of Computing

Launched in late 2002, Microsoft’s Tablet PC operating system passed a number of milestones in 2003, including announcement of its new incarnation — Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2004. The new edition will be available as a no-charge download to existing customers during the first half of 2004. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will release Tablet PCs with the new operating system soon after.

The Tablet PC’s first year was marked by continued growth in the number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and independent service vendors (ISVs) supporting the Tablet PC platform, an ever-expanding number of customer pilot deployments, and the first corporate deployments of the Tablet PC as a next-generation notebook PC. By the end of the year, some 40 companies are designing and manufacturing Tablet PCs worldwide, more than 200 ISVs in the United States and Europe are actively building Tablet PC applications, and 18 machines are shipping. That number is expected to grow in 2004, and Microsoft plans to announce additional partnerships as they happen.

The 2004 version of the operating system improves the way customers can use digital ink, making the stylus, or pen, a more natural way to interact with a mobile PC. Improvements include an enhanced “ink-to-text” experience. Inserting text is easier, and word and case recognition is improved.

Available for download in the first half of 2004, the new Tablet PC software development kit (SDK) version 1.7 will provide developers new and improved tools

to create rich, ink-enabled applications, and include stronger support for Web-based applications.

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Microsoft Develops Solutions for Vertical Industries

In October, Microsoft announced Microsoft BizTalk Accelerator for SWIFT, a new messaging platform for securities and banking transactions. And earlier, it announced a joint effort with the Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development (ACORD), a nonprofit insurance industry standards organization, to create a forms service that links standardized insurance forms to Web services.

BizTalk Accelerator for SWIFT, which is scheduled for release in February, is the latest addition to the accelerator product line for Microsoft BizTalk Server. It extends the capabilities of BizTalk Server for the financial industry by providing financial institutions with a single extensible infrastructure for integrating business processes, both within the organization and with external partners and customers.

Microsoft built the accelerator in conjunction with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), an organization that provides standardized messaging services and interface software to financial institutions around the world

In May, Microsoft joined forces with ACORD to help the insurance industry overcome some of its technology challenges, including workflow inefficiency, data redundancy and errors. The result is a XML-based forms service that enables insurance agencies to fill out electronic forms once and then link the data with the click of a button to other forms, databases, back-end systems and applications via Web Services.

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Microsoft Offers First Look at Next Wave of Software Innovation

In October, Microsoft offered developers a technical preview of the next version of Windows operating system, code-named “Longhorn,” along with the next generation of its Visual Studio development system, code-named “Whidbey,” and its SQL Server database, code-named “Yukon.” These releases are designed to extend Microsoft’s commitment to developer productivity, making Web services easier and more powerful. They also simplify data access and management by taking advantage of the latest in Extensible Markup Language (XML) and managed-code technologies. Microsoft also introduced WinFX, the programming model for Windows “Longhorn.” Built on and extending the .NET Framework, WinFX provides a comprehensive set of managed-code classes for Windows, designed to greatly increasing developer productivity as well as application security and reliability.

With Windows “Longhorn,” Microsoft expects to lay the foundation for a new wave of innovation within the technology industry — one that enables a new generation of applications that are information-driven, built for a connected world, offer breakthrough user experiences, and take full advantage of the latest PC hardware.

Windows “Longhorn” offers the following platform innovations:

  • “Avalon” — The new graphics subsystem within Windows “Longhorn,” code-named “Avalon,” will enable developers to build breakthrough user experiences and provide a unified architecture for presenting the user interface, documents and media.

  • “WinFS” — The data-storage subsystem in Windows Longhorn, code-named “WinFS,” more securely stores both structured and unstructured data and provides vastly improved ways to find, relate and act on information.

  • “Indigo” — A new approach to building and running connected systems, the new Windows communications technologies, code-named “Indigo,” are built from the ground up around the Web services architecture. Advanced Web services support in “Indigo” provides capabilities for more secure, reliable and transacted messaging and interoperability.

The “Whidbey” versions of Visual Studio and the .NET Framework are designed to enable software developers and architects to more easily design and build everything from simple Web and client applications to mobile applications and global-scale, service-oriented applications.

Further, “Whidbey” moves developers another step on the path to Windows “Longhorn,” with tremendous investments in managed code, and a forward-looking design methodology that enables the creation of applications that separate business logic from user interface. Applications that developers create with “Whidbey” will run on Windows “Longhorn,” and developer skills learned writing applications with “Whidbey” will carry forward to “Longhorn.” Visual Studio “Orcas,” the version to follow “Whidbey,” will also provide tools support for “Longhorn.”

Microsoft aims to offer customers a comprehensive ecosystem of partners to assist in the development of solutions. More than 175 partners are taking part in Microsoft’s Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) program, and have already provided more than 300 products. An additional 9,600 new partners have downloaded the VSIP Software Development Kit and joined the affiliate level of the program, while more than 40 industry partners have already announced plans to build development products that integrate with and support the “Whidbey” versions of Visual Studio and the .NET Framework. Microsoft expects a beta version of the enhanced development platform to be widely available to MSDN Universal subscribers in 2004.

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Windows Manageability Takes Center Stage

Microsoft demonstrated its commitment to improved systems management and interoperable support for heterogeneous platforms and applications in 2003. The company plans to do the same in 2004 with two major releases.

In March, Microsoft introduced the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), the company’s long-term vision for simplifying and automating how businesses design, deploy and operate distributed systems. As part of DSI, Microsoft delivered Systems Management Server (SMS), which reduces complexity and cost of operations by simplifying critical patch management, application deployment and asset management. Upon its Nov. 11 launch, early adopters had deployed full-development versions of SMS 2003 to help collectively manage more than 250,000 devices at more than 60 customer sites worldwide.

Also as part of DSI, Microsoft unveiled in October a new framework that provides interoperable support for a variety of platforms and applications via Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2000.

In 2004, Microsoft aims to further reduce businesses’ total cost of ownership and complexity of operations with the release of Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2004 in summer and Microsoft System Center soon after. Systems Center is being designed to provide complete application and system management of everything from devices to the datacenter for enterprises of all sizes.

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Microsoft Sets New Bar for Digital Media with Windows Media 9 Series

Following three years of development, Microsoft released its most advanced digital media platform to date, Windows Media 9 Series, in January.

The digital media platform has been embraced by consumers, broadcasters and the entertainment industry for its high levels of sound and video quality and innovative new technology such as 5.1-channel digital surround sound and high-definition video, as well as its proven digital-rights management (DRM) technology.

For consumers, Microsoft improved the digital media experience on Windows XP with the release of Windows Media Player 9 Series and Windows Movie Maker 2. The technology press offered rave reviews of both technologies, which have been downloaded in record numbers, with more than 100 million downloads of the player since January.

Plus! Digital Media Edition was also released.

A digital-media enhancement pack for Windows XP, it became the first Microsoft product to be offered as a download via online retailers this year. The pack includes a new photo-sharing technology called Plus! Photo Story, and included the Plus! Dancers, digital characters that dance onscreen along with music. Consumers have downloaded more than 2 million of the dancers since their introduction in January.

On the industry side, significant changes in licensing terms, intended to make Windows Media 9 Series one of the easiest and least expensive formats to work with, have increased adoption among consumer electronics manufacturers. More than 400 devices now support the technology — up from 200 in January. Numerous online audio and video service partners have also made Windows Media the leading technology platform for enjoying music and movies. Currently, more than 50 different services across the world — including Napster, Best Buy, MUSICMATCH, Tiscali, Europe’s OD2, Movielink, and CinemaNow – are powered by Windows Media technology.

Windows Media 9 Series is also making inroads in the entertainment industry with leading studios releasing two feature films, “T2: Judgment Day” and “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” that use Windows Media 9 Series high-definition video and surround sound audio.

In addition, market leaders Avid, Adobe, Digidesign, and Discreet are building professional video and multichannel-audio production tools around Windows Media 9 Series.

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New Windows eHome Technology Expands Role of Media Center PCs

Microsoft’s Windows eHome Division expanded the digital entertainment options available to consumers on their home PCs in 2003.

The launch of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 in September continued Microsoft’s pursuit of truly seamless interoperability between computing devices and consumer electronics products, introducing new features such as FM radio, full-screen visualizations, better TV picture quality, enhanced photo editing and presentation tools, and a faster and more intuitive program guide. In addition, several of Microsoft’s hardware partners unveiled a range of affordable Media Center PC designs starting at under US$1,000. Windows eHome also debuted Online Spotlight, an online guide that provides Media Center PC customers central access to music, movie trailers, news updates and other offerings from entertainment content providers such as CinemaNow, Movielink, and Napster.

Microsoft and its partners plan to continue introducing further innovations in digital entertainment software, hardware and services throughout 2004.

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Windows Server 2003 Offers Customer-focused Features, High Performance

Microsoft launched Windows Server 2003 jointly with Visual Studio .Net 2003 and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (64-bit) in April. Relying more than ever on customer feedback, the company designed the product to increase IT efficiency and user productivity, and to enable businesses to develop new applications in half the time of previous servers with twice the application performance.

Windows Server 2003 sales have been more than triple that of Windows Server 2000 during its first three months, with adoption particularly strong among organizations that formerly ran Windows NT 4.0 systems.

During the first half of 2004, Microsoft expects to launch supporting products, such as Microsoft Virtual Server, the company’s virtual machine (VM) offering, which allows users to run multiple operating systems on a single server. Additionally, the company plans to launch Software Update Services 2.0, which offers a security patch management system designed to be simple, effective and fast for maintaining network security.

Small Businesses Receive Enhanced Version of Windows Server

In October, Microsoft also launched Windows Small Business Server 2003, part of the Windows Server family and the fourth-generation release tailored specifically to the needs of small businesses. More than 500,000 evaluation kits for the product were shipped prior to launch to partners and customers around the world — approximately seven times more than with previous versions. Over the next nine months, an additional 20,000 trained partners will be ready to market and administer products and services based on Windows Small Business Server 2003.

Windows Small Business Server 2003 provides a network solution with features designed for automation and simplicity — two traits valuable to many smaller companies with limited resources.

Intended to take the complexity out of information technology and give customers the power of being networked, Windows Small Business Server 2003 helps small businesses get more work done in less time from anywhere. And its tools for managing business processes and communicating with customers, partners and employees help small businesses compete with larger rivals.

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Range of Windows-Powered Devices Hits Market;

The Microsoft Windows Embedded family of operating systems reached a milestone in maturity in 2003 with a range of new Windows-powered devices and solutions reaching the market place, the introduction of Microsoft Windows CE .NET 4.2, and the availability of new tools and resources for the embedded community.

A range of devices and solutions were announced, including industrial automation, network gateways, rugged handhelds, IP set-top-boxes, thin clients, point-of-sale terminals, IP television, and VoIP-enabled devices — by industry-leading original equipment and device manufacturers, solution integrators, and silicon vendors.

Windows CE .NET 4.2 shipped in June and further spurred development of new devices, with a new, US$3 core license to enable companies who need to build a device with more basic functionality to lower their overall total cost of development. Windows CE .NET 4.2 also introduced extensive source access, including 2 million lines of shared source code and the Windows CE .NET Shared Source Premium Program — the first program allowing full access to CE source code and the rights to modify and include Windows CE source code in shipping Windows CE-based devices. More than 180 thousand copies of Windows CE source have been downloaded to date.

Microsoft delivered to its partners and the embedded community new tools and resources that reduce the total cost of device development and time to market, including the Shared Platform program and downloadable editions of the Windows Embedded Evaluation kits. To foster collaborative learning and innovation across the academic community, Microsoft awarded Innovation Excellence Awards for Windows Embedded grants to universities worldwide for both research and curriculum development using Windows Embedded.

In 2004 Microsoft will continue to focus on the embedded community with a vigorous commitment to developing an embedded platform that will enable rich applications and services and can be integrated with PCs, servers and the Web. Microsoft will also deliver Windows XP Embedded with SP 2, and
the code name for the next major version of Windows CE .NET.

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