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Major Japanese electronics maker Hitachi Ltd. and U.S. software giant Microsoft Corp. said Thursday they have agreed to cooperate in the systems solutions business.

The broad partnership agreement includes the formation of a joint-venture company in Tokyo in October to provide comprehensive services, based on Microsoft’s Windows 2000 operating system, for companies engaging in Internet-related businesses such as online commerce, the partners said.

Details of the new company, including its capital and equity stakes, have yet to be worked out.

The agreement is Microsoft’s first global partnership with a Japanese company, according to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who attended a press conference in Tokyo to announce the accord.

Info to be mobile: Gates

Internet technology is entering a new phase that will empower people to access information anytime and anywhere, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said in Tokyo on Thursday.

In his keynote speech at a forum on electronic business, sponsored by Nihon Unisys, Gates said the Internet will become more important over the next 10 years.

“Next-generation Internet services will allow people to customize information, to work with that information, and to access with more than a keyboard,” Gates told about 3,000 people attending the forum.

Gates also said that as new technologies and tools for the Internet, including advanced broadband technology and personal computers with microphones and cameras, are introduced in the near future, companies need to think hard about Web site interaction.

Gates did not mention the antitrust ruling against Microsoft, which was announced earlier this month by the U.S. Justice Department and is designed to divide Microsoft into two firms.

Lawrence Weinbach, chairman of Unisys Corp., who also attended the forum, told reporters Thursday that he hopes the breakup plan will not be carried out. Unisys has been a partner of Microsoft since 1997.