Microsoft Takes Wraps Off Windows 7

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday provided the most complete demonstration yet of its upcoming Windows 7 operating system and gave programmers an early test version of the software.

The Redmond, Wash., company also said it will make new versions of its Office suite of productivity applications that run inside Web browsers available for free over the Web, a move to counter efforts by Google Inc. and others to encroach on Microsoft's turf with free word processing, spreadsheet and other programs.

At a company technical conference here, Microsoft said Windows 7 will come with a number of improvements, including a feature called "libraries" that will give consumers a way to easily access in one location music, videos, photos and other documents that are located on many different storage devices, whether other PCs connected to a home network or removable USB drives.

Another feature called "homegroup" will make it easier for users with, say, a laptop to move their machine between office, home and other locations. The feature will automatically configure the laptop, for example, to work with a local printer so users don't have to manually adjust their printer settings.

Microsoft has said that it expects to ship Windows 7 for consumers by January 2010.

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