Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, began offering software developers and technology partners a trial version of its next major upgrade to Windows on Wednesday.

The beta, or trial version, of Windows Vista — formerly code-named Longhorn — is aimed mainly at software engineers who will be writing programs that run on the software.

Those developers, who will work on a beta that lacks the main graphics interface, will report bugs and other issues that need to be fixed before the software is released in the second half of 2006.

Microsoft said it would release a second trial version, or beta 2, before the targeted launch date.

Asked whether the beta version of Windows Vista would give Microsoft and its developers enough time to iron out any glitches, Neil Charney, director in Microsoft’s Windows Client group, said that the release was on schedule.

“We’ve been able to reach a higher level of quality relative to other beta ones that we’ve released in the past,” Charney said.

At least 10,000 people are expected to test the beta of Windows Vista, which will include new features for securing data on computers, managing user accounts and making software work more seamlessly over networks.

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