Annual Microsoft meeting reveals company strategy

Microsoft's annual analyst meeting, which was held Thursday in Seattle, gave no indication that the industry heavyweight is going to start cutting its competitors any slack. The company outlined its strategies for new integrated products while promising to dominate market segments it now lags in, such as databases and messaging.

First on the agenda was the impending release of Windows NT 5.0 Beta 2, which Microsoft promises will be ready "within three weeks." The long-term strategy for NT is that all future versions of Windows will be based on Windows NT, not Windows 95/8. After NT 5.0 ships, there will be three versions of Windows: One for consumers, one for businesses, and one for servers. Microsoft is also investing heavily in games, and it intends to become a major player in this lucrative market.

Products such as Office will be improved with natural language, gesture, and other intelligent features. CEO and chairman Bill Gates will spearhead this initiative now that Steve Ballmer is handling the day-to-day running of the company.

And though the company has been quiet lately about its online service, MSN, it will soon begin pumping more resources into it. All of the company's "Internet hub" (or "portal") sites, such as Internet Start and the MSN home page, will be consolidated into a single MSN-branded hub. Microsoft sites such as Expedia and CarPoint will also be renamed with the MSN prefix as well.

We've actually had three portal sites and \[that\] really splintered our investments," said Pete Higgins, Microsoft VP of interactive media. "This will allow us to focus. We are working very hard technically to move forward.

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