Microsoft has announced that it will be offering native support for the RAW file formats used by high-end digital cameras in its next Operating System - Longhorn.

In the meantime, the company will be launching a 'Microsoft RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer' for Windows XP users.

The software application will allow users to view thumbnails, preview and print Nikon and Canon RAW files from Windows Explorer in Windows XP. These features, as well as the ability to organize and edit Nikon and Canon RAW files, will also be available in a future version of Digital Image Suite.

“Aggressive price moves in the digital SLR space are expected to increase demand for digital SLR cameras to achieve an average annual growth rate of 12 percent between 2005 and 2009. IDC expects that significant growth will derive from consumers who desire higher-quality images,” said Ron Glaz, program director of digital imaging services and solutions at IDC. “Microsoft's implementation of the RAW file format in ‘Longhorn' will simplify access to RAW files, and that is expected to increase the use of the RAW file format by various types of digital camera users.”