Windows 98 On The Way

Next summer Microsoft is expected to release the long-awaited upgrade to Windows 95, code-named Memphis and expected to be called Windows 98. While this upgrade has several new features, it is not as dramatic a change as was seen between Windows 3.1 and 95, or to Windows NT.

Windows 98's main feature is the integration of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) version 4.0 web browser into the operating system. The user has the option of replacing the existing desktop interface with IE's Active Desktop, making Windows look more like a web browser and better integrating the Internet into Windows. Curiously, Microsoft has chosen to make Internet Explorer available as a free download or on a CD-ROM for the cost of shipping, in order to win market share from rival Netscape. The side effect is that there may not be a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 98 if the main benefits are available for free. Besides IE, Windows 98 also includes support for many cutting-edge hardware devices, most of which are not yet widely available. As PC Magazine puts it, Windows 98 is "nice but not earthshaking." One welcome feature is the ability to upgrade from Windows 3.1 to Windows 98, which Microsoft was initially not planning to include and which has delayed the software's release until next summer.

At this point there appears to be little reason to upgrade from Windows 95 to Windows 98. Users of Windows 3.1 may wish to upgrade (please see the next section); however this would likely require hardware upgrades as well.

Windows 95

We feel that customers who have Windows 3.1 now should only upgrade if they wish to run software that requires Windows 95, as almost all new software on the market is designed to work on Windows 95 and may not even run under Windows 3.1. Upgrading in most cases would require upgrading your computers' hardware, especially memory, as well as programs such as networking software, backup software, and disk utilities.

This is not to say that Windows 95 is bad; on the contrary it has many attractive features. An important one is that networking software and other drivers under Windows 95 do not take memory away from DOS programs. In addition, Windows 95 can run more programs at once than Windows 3.1. Newer hardware tends to have better driver support under Windows 95, and the operating system is easier to administer. Windows 95 also includes networking software that can be used to connect to other PCs running Windows 95 or Windows for Workgroups.

Windows NT

Microsoft is also pushing its high-end operating system, called Windows NT. They will begin to merge Windows 95 and NT starting with Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0, which are expected next year; however this process may take several more years and versions of Windows to complete. Currently, Windows NT is primarily used on network servers.

At this point, we feel that Windows NT is a higher end solution, suitable only for larger, server based networks. Its increased cost, complexity, and system requirements outweigh any increased performance and additional features for the majority of our clients.

October 1997

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