Looking to fill the gap facing corporate users produced by Windows 98's consumer focus and Windows NT 5.0's lengthy delay, Microsoft is mounting a fresh NT 4.0 Workstation push.
The software maker is using aggressive pricing, and a promise that NT 4.0 will smooth the bumps in the upgrade path to NT 5.0, widely expected in the second quarter of 1999. And according to some industry analysts, maintaining a healthy revenue flow may be among the benefits.
"They want to discourage upgrade decision deferral, otherwise known as accelerate revenue," said Chris LeTocq, principal analyst at Dataquest.
"What you're seeing from a promotional standpoint is Microsoft trying to accelerate revenue by putting some excitement in the NT marketplace," LeTocq said.
"They are clearly sending the message to customers that NT 4.0 is the way they should be going, not Windows 98."
A study by Dataquest indicated that although Windows 98 -- which will be launched on Friday -- will ship on some 56.7 million units in 1998, there will be only "modest to low interest" in Windows 98 upgrades, approximately 5.5 million units. Windows NT shipments will continue to accelerate, as the OS continues making inroads against Unix in the enterprise arena. Later on, the OS will begin to supplant Windows 98 in the small office-home use sector, the study stated.
Microsoft maintains that many of the barriers standing in NT Workstation 4.0's initial release, such as a lack of plug-and-play capability and significantly fewer drivers than Windows 95, have since been removed.
This week the company issued a white paper guiding corporations toward NT Workstation 4.0, recommending that users buying new PCs choose ones with at least a 200MHz Pentium processor, a minimum of 64MB of RAM -- foreshadowing NT 5.0's requirements -- and support for the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface, or ACPI.