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Microsoft unveils Windows XP

Gates and Microsoft Vice President Jim Allchin unveil Windows XP in Seattle  

(CNN) - Microsoft's self-proclaimed chief software architect, company chairman Bill Gates, on Tuesday unveiled Windows XP, the newest version of the hugely successful Windows operating system.

"Windows is not just the most successful software product of all time ... it's also the tool that literally hundreds of millions of people use every day ... to get their work done" Gates said.

Windows XP is the successor to the Windows 95, 98 and ME Operating Systems, which manage a computer's basic functions. XP offers a cleaner look, customization for multiple users, new audio and video capabilities, more integration with the Internet, and a steadier, less crash-prone structure.

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Microsoft calls XP a major release that cost more than a billion dollars to develop, but many see it as a refinement, rather than a revolutionary change.

"It's just like last year's car, you know, it's a little bit better, everything looks a little different. Maybe handles a little better. Maybe gets a little better mileage," says Scott Spanbauer, an editor at PC World magazine.

With an uncertain U.S. economy and slowing computer sales, Microsoft hopes XP is enough of a new experience to entice users to buy an upgrade for their existing system, or a new computer with XP pre-installed. "What it takes to actually drive those growth rates are new experiences," Gates said.

"If you have a digital video camera, you want an operating system in a PC that can take care of it," says industry consultant Chris Le Tocq. "You can get that today from Apple. Microsoft definitely wants to be in that space."

Windows XP is expected to be available sometime after this fall, in time for the computer industry's pivotal retail period -- Christmas.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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