For the first time, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) video game conference, and it should come as no surprise that the company commemorated the occasion by revealing what is easily the most eagerly-awaited video game at the moment: Halo 3, the third and final episode of the hugely successful Halo trilogy, for the Xbox 360. Microsoft will ship it in 2007.

The company showed off a promotion trailer for Halo 3, which did little to reveal the game but much to whet the appetites of eager gamers worldwide. Awash in crashing music, the Halo 3 trailer follows curiously immobile Master Chief as he surveys the final battle between humans and the alien Covenant as it begins on Earth. "This is the way the world ends," the voice of Master Chief's AI companion, Cortana, intones as the Halo 3 logo fills the screen. For gamers, it's an almost religious experience, dampened only by the fact that Halo 3 won't ship in time for this year's holiday selling season.

But Halo 3 wasn't Microsoft's only announcement at E3. The company showed off exclusive upcoming game titles such as "Gears of War," "Fable 2," and "Forza Motorsports" and several new Xbox Live classic arcade titles. Microsoft says it will make available over 160 games for the Xbox 360 platform by the end of 2006 and that more than 10 million users will be using this platform by the time Sony ships its competing PlayStation 3 (PS3) console.

Microsoft also unveiled a connection between the Xbox 360, Vista, and mobile phones. The Anywhere Live Service extends Xbox Live services so that they are available at any time from a variety of devices. For example, Vista-based game players will be able to compete with Xbox 360 gamers over the Internet. And gamers will be able to use Windows Mobile-compatible cell phones to send messages to other gamers and access their Xbox Live Friends list.

Microsoft also announced a slew of new Xbox 360 hardware accessories, all of which will ship later this year. These include a wireless headset, the HD DVD player (rumored to cost $199), a wireless gaming receiver for Windows that will let Windows game players use the Xbox 360's wireless game controller, the Xbox Live Vision video camera, and a 256MB version of the Xbox 360 Memory Unit.

Windows gamers won't be left in the cold. In addition to making a bridge of sorts between Vista and Xbox 360, Microsoft and its software partners are also supporting Vista with a wide range of compatible game titles, including "Crysis," "Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures," "Flight Simulator X," and "Halo 2." These games will all use the DirectX 10 gaming libraries, which will be exclusive to Vista.

For those who are interested in Halo 3, I've got a screenshot gallery and links to download the game trailer available now on the SuperSite for Windows.

  SuperSite for Windows.