Microsoft Corp showed off a version of its next operating system, highlighting touchscreen features optimized for tablet computers, at the All Things Digital technology conference on Wednesday.
The world's largest software company is expected to launch the new system, code-named Windows 8, in the next 18 months, as it races to catch up with the success of Apple Inc's iPad, which went on sale over a year ago.
In a demonstration at the D9 conference in Palos Verdes, California, a Microsoft executive showed a starting page that resembles Microsoft's latest phone software, with live 'tiles' manipulated by pressing and swiping the screen.
The head of Microsoft's Windows unit, Steven Sinofsky, said the product did not yet have a name, and did not say when it would be available.
The release date is a "Defense Department secret", joked Sinofsky, adding that it would not be this autumn.
Microsoft typically aims for 24 to 36 months between major Windows versions, suggesting a launch date for the next Windows between October 2011 and October 2012.
Sinofsky, who said Microsoft was "not out of the game" in tablets, promised more details at a developers' conference in September.
He did say Microsoft is working to integrate Internet telephone service Skype into the new system, following its agreement to purchase the company last month.
The demonstration shows Microsoft is making progress toward the new operating system, which it promises will run on a range of hardware devices from traditional PCs to laptops and tablets, using both touchscreen and mouse and keyboard commands.
Five months ago, Sinofsky showed off a crude version of the new Windows system working on ARM Holdings chips -- which work better on mobile devices due to their low power requirements -- at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
That signaled a change in emphasis for Microsoft toward mobile devices, although the new Windows will still run on chips made by traditional partner Intel Corp.
(Reporting by Sarah McBride and Bill Rigby; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Carol Bishopric)