The next Windows: Microsoft's big challenge

Monday, 8 December 2003, 5:43 PM EST

Microsoft Corp. has been tarred as an illegal monopoly and a copycat. Its flagship Windows operating system gets knocked for its security holes and user-unfriendly quirks.

So what is the world's dominant software company doing? Betting billions that its next generation of Windows - code-named Longhorn - will be the breakthrough technology that quiets its critics.

Still in its early stages, Longhorn represents Microsoft's best assessment of how computing will evolve. And although the operating system won't be ready until 2005 at the earliest, Microsoft is already hard at work trying to get outside programmers to write software that will work with it.

Even with Microsoft's operating systems running on more than 90 percent of the world's desktop computers, challenges loom for software's Goliath.

Microsoft struggles these days to batten down its products against viruses and hackers, and is wrestling a growing open-source movement. On top of that, European regulators could order it next year to decouple its multimedia player from its operating systems.

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