By Robin Duff
Microsoft has given a sneak peek at the next version of its desktop operating system, touted as its most important release since Windows 95.
Microsoft gave a sneak peek of the next version of its desktop operating system recently, touted as the most important release since Windows 95, and showed off a new interface called Luna for home and business computers. But a lack of details raised as many questions as the company answered. At an unveiling held in Seattle in the US, chairman Bill Gates put a beta of Windows XP through its paces. But while Microsoft top brass aimed to prove that Windows XP will be a centrepiece to its much-touted .Net software as a service initiative, executives offered few specifics about new Web services that would emerge with .Net. Instead, Microsoft focused on how the task-centred on how the task-centred Luna interface will help people engage in activities such as online shopping, publishing photos to the Web and sharing applications over the Internet. Luna is one of two interfaces Microsoft will deliver as part of Windows XP; the company also plans to allow customers to choose the existing Windows interface. Luna will offer customers a more streamlined Windows look. It retains the Windows Start button but makes Internet connectivity, e-mail access, and interaction with system settings via the control panel more intuitive. One XP tester noted the dearth of information on how Windows XP will figure in Microsoft's .Net scenario. "There are a lot of Web-enabled features and integration, but I don't really see XP as a .Net play," said one tester. "Sure, there will be things like Passport (Microsoft's Internet authentication service) built in. But Windows XP has nothing to do with e-commerce, transactions and other infrastructure things I think about, when I talk about .Net."However Shawn Stanford, group product manager of Microsoft's consumer Windows division, said Microsoft will include some .Net technologies as part of its existing Windows Update technology which will allow people to obtain instant access to drivers and software updates over the Web.