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Next Microsoft OS to focus on touchscreen applications

AP , CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA

Microsoft Corp said on Tuesday that its next operating system would be made for touchscreen applications, an alternative to the computer mouse.

Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer unveiled the iPhone-like touch-screen feature at the Wall Street Journal’s “D: All Things Digital” conference, calling it “just the smallest snippet” of the Windows 7 operating system slated for release late next year.

A Microsoft employee showed possible applications like enlarging and shrinking photos and navigating a map of San Diego by stroking the screen.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates framed the new feature as an evolution away from the mouse.

“Today almost all the interaction is keyboard-mouse,” Gates said. “Over years to come, the role of speech, vision, ink — all of those — will be huge.”

The software company’s top two executives defended its last operating system, Vista, while acknowledging missteps. Gates said he has never been 100 percent satisfied with any Microsoft product and that the company prides itself on fixing shortcomings in later versions.

“Vista has given more opportunity to exercise our culture than some products,” he said.

Microsoft has divulged little about its Widows 7 operating system — even after introducing the touch-screen feature on Tuesday — a contrast to the much-hyped release of Vista.

Chris Flores, a director on Microsoft’s Windows client communications team, said in a posting on a company blog on Tuesday that the more circumspect tack was deliberate and intended to avoid announcing plans that may change.

“With Windows 7, we’re trying to more carefully plan how we share information with our customers and partners,” he wrote.

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