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updated 8/27/2004 4:41:38 PM ET 2004-08-27T20:41:38

Microsoft Corp. said it plans to release the next version of its Windows operating system as expected in 2006, but it will not include much-touted new technology for organizing and storing data.

Tom Button, corporate vice president for Windows product management, said the company hopes to release the new Windows version, code-named Longhorn, in the second half of 2006, about five years after the current version of Windows was released.

With Longhorn, Button said Microsoft does plan to improve the way people find things like e-mails, photos and documents.

But the company will not be ready to include an even more advanced system for sorting, storing and finding data. Instead, it will begin testing that system about the same time it releases Longhorn and make it available sometime down the road.

The ability to find and organize data on a personal computer is becoming increasingly important as people are able to amass more digital information. Right now, finding pictures, e-mails and a Microsoft Word document, all related to the same topic _ say, a vacation in Hawaii _ is time-consuming and cumbersome. These new technologies aim to make it quicker and easier.

Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said the company probably had little choice but to reduce the capabilities of Longhorn if it wanted the system to be delivered on time. But he expects Microsoft to be able to offer the more advanced capabilities relatively quickly, perhaps as early as 2007.

Microsoft would not give a time frame.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, said not including the much-touted storage capabilities in Longhorn "isn't a good surprise." But he believes it will be much more critical for Microsoft to be able to include them in the next version of Windows Server software, due out in 2007. That's because servers tend to hold much more data, making advanced searching and sorting capabilities more necessary.

Longhorn also will include new technology for enabling better visual presentation, such as three-dimensional rendering. And it will include ways to communicate more easily with other systems, such as Web-based applications or mobile devices.

But Button said users will not have to upgrade to Longhorn to use those capabilities, since applications that use them also will be able to run on Windows XP.

Cherry said the company probably decided to make the new technology compatible with the previous version of Windows so it could entice developers to make new applications and still find a wide enough audience.

The analyst said the move could make it less likely that some people will buy the new version of Windows, although he suspects that Microsoft will add other features to Longhorn that make it more compelling.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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