LOS ANGELES - Bill Gates offered a peek Monday at the next incarnation of Microsoft Windows, promising it will offer computer users robust security and let them more easily search for files spread across varying programs.
The Microsoft chairman began showing the new operating system, code-named Longhorn, to outside software developers so they can begin writing new programs that will work with it.
Longhorn is billed as the biggest operating system upgrade since Windows 95 by Microsoft, whose software runs more than 90 percent of the world’s desktop computers.
The company plans to release an initial ‘‘beta’’ version in the second half of 2004, but analysts predict the final version likely won’t emerge until 2006.
‘‘We’re at the beginning of this process,’’ Gates told the more than 7,000 programmers and application designers at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. ‘‘We need your involvement to get this right.’’
Many of the improvements in Longhorn will occur behind the scenes.
A unified file storage system will let users search for information regardless of whether it resides in e-mail, spreadsheets or wordprocessing documents.
Another new feature in the works is a vertical panel on the side of the screen that could include essential information at a glance, such as the time and date, instantmessenger buddy lists, links to favored Web sites or updated stock prices.
Longhorn’s graphics would be more sophisticated, with windows that can turn transparent when pushed aside and better means for previewing documents.
Microsoft plans to add peer-to-peer networking technologies to let co-workers, for example, send documents to each other that they can jointly view and annotate.
Gates said Microsoft is banking on dramatic improvements in computer processing power by 2006 for many of Longhorn’s features.