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Microsoft taps Canon to bring Vista into color

Software giant is set to announce an all-new color matching system as part of the Windows Vista OS.

LOS ANGELES--As part of its effort to boost the graphics abilities in Windows Vista, Microsoft is expected to announce Tuesday that it has partnered with Canon to include an all-new color matching system as part of the new operating system.

The Windows Color System is designed, among other things, to help make digital photo prints that better match the images that appear on the screen.

"There have been advancements made in the past to try and solve the fundamental problem that what I see on my screen doesn't match what I see from my printer," said Josh Weisberg, Microsoft group product manager. "Those advancements have helped for professionals and advanced users but didn't really do much for the rest of the world."

The new color system is part of several changes Microsoft is making with Vista that are designed to improve how Windows displays graphics. The other primary enhancements include its Avalon graphics engine, now known as the Windows Presentation Foundation, and its Metro printing engine.

Vista, the successor to Windows XP, is expected to debut in the second half of next year.

"It is a real focus to make Vista the best platform for imaging, presentation and graphics," Weisberg said.

Digital photography in particular is an area that Microsoft is targeting. The company already announced plans to support the uncompressed RAW files used by high-end digital cameras. And Weisberg said there is more to come, beyond the color system news.

"You'll see over time how this whole picture comes together," he said. "There are other pieces of this story coming that make this a really great platform."

Printer makers have had their own method for dealing with the fact that PC images don't match the prints--encouraging consumers to skip the computer entirely. Many printers from Hewlett-Packard, Canon and others contain small displays and memory card readers that allow people to print photos without a computer.

While Microsoft is trying to improve the graphics, it is also trying not to make obsolete all of the PCs out there, particularly corporate machines, that may not have such top-of-the-line abilities.

The company's answer has been to offer a tiered approach, with some computers able to tap all of Vista's graphics power and some older machines really not looking a whole lot different than Windows XP or Windows 2000.

"We want them all to take advantage of the other enhancements we made--security, performance, et cetera," Greg Sullivan, Windows lead product manager, said in a presentation Monday ahead of Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference here, which kicks off Tuesday.

Initially, Microsoft feared that many machines might not have the power necessary to show Vista's transparent windows and slick animations. However, because Microsoft has taken longer to get Vista onto the market, Sullivan said, many more people will see Vista at its best.

"The majority of the PCs that are shipping today will support the highest-end graphics," he said.