While insisting that the newly christened Windows 98 operating system will find its home in the enterprise, Microsoft is also promising tools that will ease migration from Windows 95 and 98 to its favourite operating system, Windows NT 5.0.
To help users along the road to NT 5.0, which is planned for beta release at a developer's conference in California in mid-September, Microsoft will offer migration tools to check applications and determine if they will work with NT. Among them are migration DLLs that Microsoft is developing with application vendors.
However, those looking to jump from 16-bit Windows to NT 5.0 will be left out.
Although the company said it had beefed up the team to ensure that migration from Windows 95 and Windows 98 to NT 5.0 on the desktop will be seamless, it admitted that it had done nothing to improve the Windows 3.1-to-NT transition.
Microsoft is recommending Windows 98 for users running Windows 3.1 applications that do not perform well on NT. These include programs that require real-mode device drivers which do not function on NT. Windows 98 is now in beta testing and is expected to ship early in 1998.
Microsoft expects companies buying new hardware to pick NT 4.0 in anticipation of NT 5.0. However, one analyst said he believes Windows 98 will provide a smoother upgrade path.
"Deploying Windows 98 makes sense because it's a better migration path than NT 4.0, and 5.0 is so far out on the horizon," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at the GartnerGroup, in Stamford, Connecticut.
Microsoft hopes to find success in the small-business arena. To that end, the company by September will release a small-business version of its BackOffice server-application suite with an integrated version of NT Server.
Code-named "Sam", this package is designed to be a turnkey solution for small shops, offering slimmed-down versions of BackOffice servers such as SQL, Exchange, and Proxy, as well as fax and modem-pooling functions.
Microsoft will put a licensing and technological cap of 25 users on the small-business BackOffice server, said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft executive vice president.
Microsoft's future offerings
Product Beta Testing Ship date
BackOfficeServer Now Later this quarter
Windows 98 Now Early 1998
Windows NT 5.0 Mid-Sept No ship date yetOffice 97 Now No ship date yet