updated 11/7/2005 12:45:28 PM ET 2005-11-07T17:45:28

Microsoft Corp. will release a new version of its popular software for helping companies house large amounts of data, one of the first in a series of product launches that the company is hoping will bolster its competitive edge.

The Redmond-based software giant is officially releasing a new version of SQL Server 2005 at an event Monday in San Francisco.

At the same time, it also is launching updates of BizTalk Server 2006, which pulls information from different applications together, and Visual Studio 2005, which is a product for developers. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

The software releases will be followed a few weeks later by the release of Xbox 360, a new version of Microsoft's video game console. The company promises many more new releases through 2006, including a recently announced batch of Internet-based offerings and new versions of its flagship Windows operating system and Office business software.

With the latest version of SQL, Microsoft is touting new functions for culling data from large amounts of information, called Business Intelligence. For example, Barnes & Noble Inc. plans to use it to help stores better decide what books to stock, Microsoft said.

Microsoft is hoping to gain a competitive edge by offering those services as part of its core product, rather than requiring people to pay extra for such functions.

Although consumers may be more interested in the flashier Xbox later this month, the company's bottom line could benefit more from the server software launch. Microsoft will lose money every time it sells one of the consoles, while server software has consistently been a bright spot on Microsoft's balance sheet.

For the quarter ended Sept. 30, Microsoft said operating income in its server and tools division rose 28 percent to $896 million from $699 million a year earlier. The home and entertainment division, which includes Xbox, lost $141 million during the same quarter, up from an $138 million loss in the same period a year earlier.

Microsoft still makes most of its money from the lucrative Windows and Office franchises, but it increasingly needs to rely on other products as the market for those cash cows grows saturated.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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