Microsoft executives unveiled its plans for future products and enhancements to existing servers, tools and applications.
Microsoft officials detailed what technologists can expect to see later this year and into 2004, with what chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates and others called "Integration Innovation".
Gates said Microsoft planned to spend $6.8bn (£4.2bn) on research and development during 2004 and hire as many as 5,000 new employees.
The key areas for spending will be on technology management, increased product integration, business intelligence, model-based programming and speech and language technologies.
"We have to take the products we have today and make them applicable to more scenarios," Gates said.
He said, for instance, that most of the key R&D spending areas he mentioned will come to market via intermediate releases between now and the final version of the Windows operating system, codenamed Longhorn.
He said that Longhorn will include advances in the user interface, unified storage and improved messaging.
"In the same time frame, we'll have advances in Office," Gates said.
Group vice-president of platforms Jim Allchin said that at Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, in late October, the company will give developers a CD containing an early version of Longhorn code. Following that and into next year, Microsoft intends to issue the first of beta of Longhorn.
Allchin also said that in 2004 Microsoft will deliver more client pieces, such as Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, a version of media centre and update to the Tablet PC edition of Windows.
Office product manager Roan King demonstrated the integration of One Note 2003 with Office. He showed how a user can run a search on a word to have One Note pull up several instances of the word in various forms including text and electronic handwritten notes, and then with one click create an Outlook e-mail message out of the document.
Showing how hardware will play a role in integrating various communication applications, Chad Magendanz, lead program manager of hardware innovation team, showed off the Athens system and claimed that the PC increases productivity by enabling communications methods such as voice, data, video and text.
Pieter Knook, corporate vice-president of the mobile and embedded devices group, said that next year Microsoft will issue the latest version of Windows Mobile that will include tighter integration with Exchange Server.
By the next release date, he added, more than 1,000 applications will be certified for Windows Mobile. The latest version also will be accompanied by more deals with Tier One operators and major worldwide operators.
On the enterprise applications side, senior vice-president of Microsoft busienss solutions, Doug Burgum said that in the first calendar quarter of 2004 will bring to market an enhanced iteration of its CRM software with support for eight more languages.
Also announced were the latest versions of servers and tools scheduled to be released in 2004 for a number of servers, including Microsoft Operations Manager, Internet Security and Acceleration Server, Speech Server, Real-Time Communications Server and BizTalk Server.
Tom Sullivan writes for InfoWorld