While Microsoft is to release an updated version of Windows 98 - Windows 98 Second Edition (SE) - company officials deny it has reneged on its commitment to the new NT-based Windows 2000 operating system.
Speaking at the company's annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in the US, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer said that the upgrade will be based on the Windows 9x kernel. This is despite widely stated claims from the software giant that Windows 98 would be the last version with that code base.
"We have said that Windows 2000 will be the new desktop and that we were focusing on NT," said Ballmer. "It had been our target to get there in 2000. The right approach is to get a consumer version of Windows 98 out next year."
But according to company sources, Microsoft will release the new updated version in the middle of this year, superseding the existing Windows 98 and Windows 98 upgrade packs.
Microsoft Australia Windows product manager Tony Wilkinson confirmed that Windows 98 SE will be released around June, but was not able to release local pricing at this time. He denied the release represents a divergence from a consumer version of Windows 2000.
"Our direction has been that our next major release will be based on NT. In the meantime, there are continual minor updates to the existing code," Wilkinson told ARN.
Explorer 5 included
Wilkinson said that as well as patches and fixes in Service Pack 1, Windows 98 SE will include an Internet connection sharing feature, device driver updates and Internet Explorer 5.0. "Existing Windows 98 users will be able to upgrade from the Microsoft Web site, or they will be able to order the upgrade on CD at a cost to cover packaging and handling. There will also be retail packages of the new Windows 98 SE for new users or as an upgrade from Windows 3.x or Windows 95," he added.
Microsoft mulls over open source
Microsoft revealed that it is considering the open-source approach last week at the eighth annual WinHEC.
Steve Ballmer and Brian Valentine, vice president of Microsoft's Windows operating system group, said they have been studying the possibility of open sourcing for the past six months, focusing on the NT kernel and Windows 2000. "We're seriously considering it,'' Valentine said. "We have to look at what the customer benefits would be.''Earlier, in his morning keynote address, Ballmer said open sourcing has long been important. "This is something we need to look at,'' he said. Ballmer noted that a young Bill Gates had been intrigued and his computer curiosity spurred on when he found a bug in software code more than two decades ago.
Microsoft has held its source code close to its vest, long putting off opening it up. Some industry watchers believe this recent public interest in open sourcing may have something to do with Microsoft trying to appease the US Department of Justice, which is closely monitoring the company's policies.by Sharon Gaudin