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Microsoft's Adobe rivals due after Vista

Expression designer tools to ship early next year. A first look at Expression Web Designer is due in June.

Microsoft will step up its assault on Adobe Systems' customer base with the release early next year of its Expression line of design and development software.

The three-product Expression suite, aimed at graphics designers and illustrators, will be available early next year--about 60 to 90 days after Windows Vista ships, said Forest Key, director of product management for Microsoft Expression designer tools.

Key also said the first version, or community technology preview, of Expression Web Designer will be available in June. That product is for building Web sites with JavaScript and other Web technologies.

Adobe has long supplied its programs, such as Illustrator and Photoshop, to designers and graphic artists. Through its acquisition of Macromedia, Adobe gained Web-authoring software, notably the Flash product line.

Microsoft, however, is investing in a wide range of graphics and user interface-oriented products, including its Expression products.

Last week at the Mix '06 Web developer conference, the company further detailed Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere, a cross-browser, multidevice user interface tool set, which some people have dubbed an Adobe Flash killer.

"We are extremely focused on the user experience...broadly in every class of application," Key said. "We are saying that the user experience matters in ways that dramatically add value to the business."

An important part of Microsoft's front-end strategy is easing communication between designers and software developers. Its Visual Studio development tool and Expression products will be able to "read" a new layout language called XAML, Microsoft said.