Microsoft says it will call the next version of its operating system "Windows Vista" as it prepares to release a wave of new products after posting its slowest-ever year of growth.
Windows Vista, formerly known by its code-name Longhorn, is scheduled for a worldwide launch in the second half of 2006, five years after Windows XP, the longest time lag between releases of its flagship operating system that runs on nine out of 10 personal computers worldwide.
Microsoft has promised many enhancements in Windows Vista, including better security, graphics and computing over the Web.
"It's in the consumer area that they have the best hope of rapid adoption," said Rob Helm, analyst at independent researcher Directions on Microsoft.
Brad Goldberg, general manager, Windows product development at Microsoft, said more details on Vista would be released at a developers' conference in September and a beta, or test version, by August 3.
New products, including Windows Vista, the next version of Office, new database software and the Xbox 360 video game console are expected to help Microsoft return to double-digit growth after the company said on Thursday that yearly revenue grew 8 per cent to US$39.79 billion ($58.15 billion), the slowest yearly growth since Microsoft went public in 1986.
Shares in the company fell 2.6 per cent to US$25.75 on Nasdaq on Friday after it said earnings for the current fiscal quarter would be just below Wall Street's expectations.
At current prices, Microsoft is valued at 16 times projected earnings, compared with the average 24 times earnings valuation seen for the broader software sector.