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From WinHEC: Microsoft Releases Windows Vista Beta 2

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday released new test versions of what company co-founder Bill Gates called its three most important products.

(Seattle) Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday released new test versions of what company co-founder Bill Gates called its three most important products: Windows Vista for desktop computers, Windows for servers and the Office business software suite.

The new beta products were unveiled at Microsoft's annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, a highly technical event for the companies that produce gadgets powered by Microsoft products. For those companies, the test releases are important because it helps them prepare for the final launch of the new versions of Windows and Office.

Microsoft recently delayed the consumer release of the Windows Vista operating system and Office products until January, missing the all-important holiday season and dealing a blow to some hardware manufacturers who were hoping for a holiday sales boost. The company does plan to release the products to business users in November.

The Windows server operating system is due out by the end of 2007.

Gates and other Microsoft executives sought Tuesday to tout the benefits of companies using all three products together to improve security, more easily work together and more quickly find documents and other information.

The company also said the new technology would make it easier for companies to load software onto computers.

For consumers, Microsoft said Windows Vista will make it easier, faster and more enjoyable to do things like find family photos and watch movies. Microsoft also is placing particular focus on using its products for mobile devices, since the company believes that more people will start using gadgets such as "smart" cell phones for everyday tasks.

Microsoft said about 3,500 people were attending the conference, which continues this week at a convention center in downtown Seattle.

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