Many Windows 98 beta testers say they are pleased with improvements in boot time and remote management features, but some feel average users may have difficulty finding their way around the operating system's browser-like interface.
Key changes to Windows 98, which is due in the first quarter of next year, include better remote and configuration management that lets network administrators service a user's machine without going out to the desktop.
It will also feature tight integration with Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer, letting users toggle between the Internet and desktop functions without changing interfaces.
Beta tester Dave Saltz said those changes will make users more productive and cut support costs for businesses. But he said Microsoft still must make the user interface more intuitive.
According to Saltz, Windows 98 is far better than Windows 95 with respect to support issues because it won't force systems administrators to make changes and fixes at a user's desktop which can be a serious issue as the number of users in a company grows.
"The common driver model, which allows developers to write a single driver for Windows 98 and Windows NT, is a huge benefit in terms of saving time and reducing support costs because there will be fewer compatibility issues," he said.
"Users can also open up multiple applications and have the system stay stable," Saltz said.
Frank Isaacs, a software developer said he doesn't think training will be an issue. "End users don't want to have to think about going to several different places to find information. With Windows 98, they don't have to," he said. He noted that messaging and Internet newsgroups, as well as files, can be accessed from a single interface.