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Microsoft, NYT partner on newspaper software

Times Reader uses the graphics power of Windows Vista to help bring the "Gray Lady" further into the digital age. Image: NYT gets digital boost

Aiming to offer newspapers a new digital publishing alternative, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Friday touted a software program that tries to make publications easier to read on a computer screen.

As part of a speech at a newspaper editors' conference in Seattle, Gates is slated to show off a program called "Times Reader," developed by the New York Times Co., that uses the graphics power of Windows Vista to help bring the "Gray Lady" further into the digital age. The software allows users to view the digital content on any screen size or change the font size. The layout will readjust itself to neatly flow around photos and other graphic images.

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"The Times Reader is a great next step in melding the readability and portability of the newspaper with the interactivity and immediacy of the Web," New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement.

The newspaper industry has been battling declines in circulation and a migration of advertisers to the Internet. In addition to posting content on their Web sites, many magazines and newspapers have offered a digital edition that's essentially an electronic facsimile of the print version, either using Adobe's Portable Document Format, technology from Zinio Systems or other means.

"We continually look for new ways and the latest technology to deliver our distinctive brand journalism to satisfy our audience's changing expectations for consuming media," Sulzberger said.

The new software, which uses the Windows Presentation Foundation engine built into Vista, maintains the look of the New York Times' print edition using the same fonts, but aims to capture some of the flexibility that software can enable. The software allows for the inclusion of hyperlinks within the text, as well as the ability to play multimedia or annotate a story with comments. The content can be stored on the PC for offline viewing, but can also be updated continuously when a computer is connected to the Internet.

"The Times Reader is a powerful example of how companies can use software to forge new types of customer connections that span beyond the browser to the desktop and mobile devices," Gates said in a statement ahead of his speech at the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Microsoft said in a press release that the Times Reader software would be available for download in the coming months.

It's not the first time Microsoft has tried to get involved in such a transformation. Back in 2002, the software maker partnered with several magazines and newspapers to try to get their content onto the Tablet PC.