Where does software go to die?

Where does software go to die?

Only in IT can a product yet to be released already be declared dead within four years by its own creator.

OK, so it's not quite that simple. But when the folk at Microsoft say that Windows 98 will be the last interpretation of the Windows 95 operating kernel, you have to wonder exactly how much of your life they have already worked out for you, and whether they have the weekend's lotto numbers.

But this is certainly not to say that Windows 98 will be a stillborn product. When it ships in Q1 next year Microsoft promises that The Operating System Formerly Known as Memphis will be a faster, slicker and more intelligent younger sibling.

The beta versions are already testifying the truth of these statements. Fire up the start button and the menu slides out smoothly. Indeed, all menu factions now sport this slick-looking tweak - due primarily to the maturation of DirectX technology within the OS.

"It's fine tuning and better use of the graphics hardware, and really taking advantage of the hardware that's in the PC," said Microsoft's Windows marketing manager, Peter Moore. "There's definitely been some improvements made in the kernel to support the user interface."

Such improvements are centred around making Microsoft's dream of the active desktop a reality. Ever since the first pre-announcement of Internet Explorer 4.0 Microsoft has been extolling the virtues of a browser built directly into the desktop. But as "browsers" seem to take up more resources than Oracle 10, the strain it would place on hardware needed to be overcome first.

Moore says Microsoft will make two basic recommendations to users of Windows 98. "If you're just running the standard desktop, then your requirements are the same as for Windows 95, and you'll get better performance than you did on the same machine.

"But if you're going to run the Web desktop, then you're going to require additional memory," said Moore.

"One of the positioning statements that we're making with Windows 98 is that it's the best place to run IE 4.0, because it does require additional resources."

There's honesty for you. Moore says Microsoft is waiting on further feedback from beta testers before declaring just how much extra memory you'll need.

An added bonus though is that for the same reasons you'll get better performance on IE 4.0 you'll also result in better performance from other applications.

"We've done some work with optimising the way applications are layed out on the disk, with an optimising defragmentation wizard," said Moore. The wizard works by profiling applications as you run them, to determine what part of the applications are being used in what order.

"It then gets those applications and rewrites them on the hard drive in a sequential manner, so that when you're accessing it next time, it doesn't have to seek backwards and forwards on the hard drive. And you can get up to 30 per cent improvement on performance."

Also of no concern will be compatibility issues between Windows 95 and Windows 98, as Moore says the latter is built primarily on the former's kernel.

"The whole reason for us bringing out Windows 98 is to continue that compatibility that we've offered with Windows 95," said Moore. "Windows 95 is the most compatible operating systems that we have in terms of support for legacy hardware and software, so it supports DOS drivers and it supports real mode drivers and access to hardware. Windows 98 will continue to do that, because it's essentially the same Windows 95 kernel.

"And that's the reason why we didn't retrofit part of the NT kernel into Windows 98, because the whole reason for Windows 98 being here is so that we can continue to offer that compatibility."

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