While no time line was given for its release, Microsoft VP Jim Allchin said a new "scalable" user interface would be added to all versions of Windows, allowing the system to adapt to the user's technical sophistication level. Bill Gates is expected to discuss the new UI in detail on Friday.

"It is not a technical issue. Rather, making things simple till now has not been a big enough focus for us," Allchin said yesterday.

With a scalable user interface, novice users would be presented with a simplified interface. As they become more familiar with the system, Windows will present new features automatically. One possibility for this interface is the adoption of the Office 97 "Assistants" in Windows itself. This would be the first step towards a future agent-based operating system that Microsoft demonstrated in 1995.

Start the "Bob 98" jokes, people. It looks like they're serious