Microsoft plans to release a trio of desktop products together in early 1999 in a move to accentuate the tight integration between the three, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.
Office 2000, Internet Explorer 5.0, and the first major update to Windows 98 -- Service Pack 1 (SP1) -- will be released within two weeks of each other, according to beta testers who are being encouraged by Microsoft to use the products together.
"The Gold releases of two major Microsoft products are scheduled for the same time frame as the Gold releases of the [Service Pack] and OSR [OEM Service Release]," Jim Roche, Microsoft's Windows 98 beta coordinator, wrote in a testers' newsgroup this week. "Because of this, we will need to have compatibility testing done between our products, [Service Pack] and OSR beta 1, and the [Explorer] 5.0 beta and Office 2000 beta."
A beta release of OEM Service Release 1 for Windows 98 was released a few weeks ago, along with the SP1 beta release. The two have the same feature sets, according to Kim Akers, Windows product manager.
Because Microsoft traditionally urges its testers not to mix their beta versions, the green light on using the beta versions for Office 2000, Explorer 5.0, and Windows 98 SP1 in concert is a sign that the products are close to release, according to beta testers.
"Two weeks ago Microsoft gave the OK to combine these products internally," said a West Coast beta tester, who requested anonymity. "Now that they've eaten this dog food for two weeks, they're ready to feed it to the beta testers."
SP1 includes support for Device Bay hardware; additional modem driver support and Universal Serial Bus modem support; Wake-On LAN functionality; ATM networking updates; and Distributed Component Object Model 98. Service Pack 2 for Explorer 4.0 will consist primarily of security and bug fixes.
Released to beta testers two weeks ago, Windows 98 SP1 also includes a second Service Pack for Explorer 4.0.
The Service Pack "will make Windows 98 run like it should have when it was released," another beta tester said. The operating system shipped in June.
Explorer 5.0 will enter widespread beta testing this week, Microsoft officials said. A technology preview, aimed at developers, was released in June.
Beta 1 will be geared toward corporate users. A host of ISPs and corporate customers met with Explorer teams at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus last week to go over the next-generation browser.
Office 2000 furthers Microsoft's embrace of the Internet by exploiting HTML and other standards, and allowing users to save documents directly to Web servers in Internet formats.
Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., is at www.microsoft.com.