This week, Microsoft Corp. will unveil its newest operating system for consumers.
Dubbed Windows XP, the product is touted as bringing crash-proof reliability to the home PC.
Despite Microsoft's recent public emphasis on creating trendier Web and wireless technologies, the software giant remains dependent on its computer operating systems for more than 30% of its revenue and profit.
Due out this fall, Windows XP is an upgrade from Windows 2000, which was launched last year as a suite of four operating systems for corporate users. For the first time, consumers will have access to the same industrial-strength software used by businesses.
What sets Windows 2000 apart from earlier, crash-prone versions is a more robust design that allows computers to be in use day after day without frequent rebooting.
Those who have reviewed the beta versions of Windows XP say the program is bulky and requires a minimum of 128 megabytes of RAM and a Pentium III processor, said Paul Thurrott, editor of Windows 2000 magazine in Dedham, Mass. And the larger the computer program, the more likely it is to have bugs. Windows 2000 has 30 million lines of computer code, and reportedly it was initially shipped last year with 63,000 bugs.
Microsoft is betting that the XP's always-on capability, along with greater ease in executing multimedia tasks such as uploading and editing digital photos, will persuade consumers to buy XP upgrades or purchase new computers with the operating system already installed. Although Microsoft has not released a retail price, the upgrades are expected to cost from $90 to $130.
Chances are the new product will be widely adopted, unlike the recently released WindowsMe, which many regarded as a dressed-up, less stable version of Windows 98.
"Unlike the warmed-over updates of the past, this one is a biggie," Thurrott said.
Windows XP will be based on the same code that forms the foundation of Windows 2000. The new system will have the ability to isolate applications so when one program crashes, it doesn't take the rest of the system down. Microsoft says Windows XP also will help prevent the tendency for one program to interfere with the vital code of another during upgrades and installations.
That always-on capability will be a key if Microsoft is to realize its vision of having the desktop computer act as a hub for other home entertainment devices and mobile gadgets.
Windows XP also will sport a new look that inevitably will draw comparisons to the user interface found in Apple Computer Inc.'s new Mac OS X operating system, according to those who have seen the new software.
Windows XP also will allow users to plug their digital cameras directly into the computer, bypassing software used to "talk" to the camera.
Times staff writer P.J. Huffstutter contributed to this report.