Microsoft announced yesterday that it plans to release a package of Windows 98 fixes and enhancements to beta testers by the end of this month. Product Manager Kim Akers says the final version of Windows 98 Service Pack 1 will be posted on the company's Windows Update Web site in early 1999.
True to Microsoft form, Akers couldn't say which bugs the Service Pack would fix. Although it will incorporate security patches for Internet Explorer and Outlook Express already available through Windows Update, Akers wasn't sure which, if any, of the scores of other known bugs Service Pack 1 will squash. Currently, Microsoft's Knowledgebase (support.microsoft.com) contains nearly a hundred articles describing issues the company has "confirmed to be a problem" in Windows 98.
The rest of the Service Pack will consist of new hardware features designed to make life easier for manufacturers of cutting-edge desktop and portable systems. Windows 98 with Service Pack 1 installed will support the Device Bay specification for removable drives, batteries, and other devices. The update will also add USB modem support and bundle Hauppauge's drivers (already available) for its TV tuner cards.
Enhancements to the Active Accessibility module support additional third-party devices, such as text-to-speech screen readers and mouth-stick-controlled keyboards.
The Service Pack will add some bells and whistles to Windows 98's network portfolio, too--although few users may know or care about it. The "wake-on-LAN" feature allows machines such as automated backup servers, to rouse another slumbering machine over the network. And the few, brave ATM adopters will now be able to access their networks remotely, in much the same way that current Windows users can connect to the home office's Netware or TCP/IP LAN using Dial-Up Networking.
Even if it does fix many of the known Windows 98 bugs, Service Pack 1 may not address many of the most annoying problems upgraders have encountered. Conflicts between Windows 98 and the ACPI power management schemes on newer laptops almost always require a BIOS upgrade from the manufacturer, Akers confirmed.