Bill Gates promised personal computer hardware makers at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle the new version, code-named Longhorn, would offer beefed-up security, richer graphics, better organization and search...

Bill Gates promised personal computer hardware makers at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle the new version, code-named Longhorn, would offer "beefed-up security, richer graphics, better organization and search of information stored on PCs, as well as much faster performance."

After delays, the world’s largest software maker is facing its longest-ever gap between releases of its Windows operating system, which runs on more than nine out of 10 PCs worldwide. Longhorn’s scheduled launch in time for the 2006 holiday season will come five years after Windows XP’s debut in late 2001. In the meantime, Gates said a new version of Windows, called "Windows XP Professional x64 Edition," aimed at enterprise customers, will begin shipping next month. They can crunch more information at one time, handling 64 bits of data compared with 32 bits in the previous generation, he said.

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