-- Windows 98 has become a flash point for disputes between Microsoft, its customers, and PC makers, many of which are taking matters into their own hands.
Hewlett-Packard this fourth quarter plans to offer notebooks with a dual-boot feature, giving users a choice between Windows 98 and Windows 95. HP is working with Microsoft on a tool, called the Microsoft Multiple Operating System Preinstallation Toolkit Guide, to facilitate the dual-boot functionality.
Similarly, Acer will offer a dual-load option that allows resellers or end users to put Windows 95 back on a system in its two notebook lines, TravelMate and Extensa. And NEC will offer its Versa LX and SX notebook models with Windows 95, unless customers want Windows 98.
Also in the mix are warnings that several OEMs -- including Dell, IBM, Compaq, and Toshiba -- have posted to their Web sites about moving to Windows 98 without first getting driver and BIOS updates. Notebook users upgrading older systems may lose data when invoking the "file to save" function on Windows 98 systems due to the change in the file allocation tables on Windows 98.
IBM will soon release a CD-ROM with BIOS and driver updates for Windows 98.
Microsoft officials insist there have been no specific trends in the complaints.
"Some of the older machines need to have their BIOSes updated. That's what OEMs are working on, and we're working with them," said Kim Akers, Windows product manager at Microsoft. "OEMs are the ones that have to develop the BIOS."
Nevertheless, one analyst blames Microsoft and not the BIOS vendors.
"Microsoft should have done a more thorough job in testing Windows 98 with the latest mobile computers," said Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights. "The IT community should be extremely careful about how they manage the migration."