The early engineering release of Microsoft's Memphis shows a positive direction for this Windows 95 successor, but for the moment it lacks sufficient features to be a compelling corporate upgrade.
Among the key elements missing from this release is integration with Internet Explorer 4.0. That integration is intended to give Memphis users a browser-like feel when working with applications.
Memphis now incorporates features first found in the October OEM 2 release, such as Universal Serial Bus support and the 32-bit File Allocation Table (FAT32).
The prerelease also adds support for emerging hardware and industry initiatives, such as IEEE 1394 (Apple's Firewire), Intel's Accelerated Graphics Port and Digital Video Disc.
The long-awaited common 32-bit Windows device driver model for Windows 95, Memphis and Windows NT finally appears. That will let developers bring products to market faster and could help Windows NT lose its laggard reputation for using devices such as faxes and scanners.
Along with FAT32, which was designed to make efficient use of 2Gb and larger disk drives, Memphis adds the converter missing from earlier releases. But the converter offers a "half-loaf", changing FAT16 partitions into FAT32 but not combining separate disk partitions, as seen when converting the two partitions on a 2.5Gb drive.
To combine those partitions back into a single 2.5Gb unit, you would either need to do manual repartition or use a third-party tool.
Memphis supports dual monitors using two video cards on one system.
The two displays can combine to make a larger desktop, or programs can display different items on each monitor. For example, a Web designer can do Hypertext Markup Language coding on one display and see the page in a browser on the other display.
Remote access server improvements put Memphis on par with Windows NT 4.0. Our Memphis machine acted as dial-in host for clients that run Novell's IPX and SPX and Microsoft's NetBEUI protocol. Through multilink channel aggregation, which combines multiple communications links into a single higher-speed link, I used two 56Kbit/sec modems to connect to an NT 4.0 server.
The two connections combined into a single 66Kbit/sec upload and more than 100Kbit/sec download connection, offering near-ISDN speeds over ordinary telephone lines.
The Point-to-Point Tunnel Protocol turns the Internet into a low-cost, secure virtual private network for Memphis and NT users.