It's official — there won't be a service pack patch to Windows 98 till early next year despite Microsoft's earlier talk of a "multimedia enhancement" to be released soon after the operating system appeared this year.
Windows 98 service pack 1 (SP1) looks set to contain a mix of operating system level and application level enhancements and fixes. For instance, SP1 will take care of the power management problems caused by the new advanced configuration and power interface (ACPI) support in Windows 98 that have bedevilled some users' installation attempts. Microsoft will also update ACPI to work with newer hardware, and Wake-On-LAN systems.
Further improvements under the hood include modem drivers based on the Windows driver model (WDM), which was introduced for graphics and audio drivers earlier. WDM was created to introduce a common device driver model for Windows 98 and NT, to boost the latter's hardware support.
SP1 should also introduce support for the device bay specification, which is an extension of plug and play that permits hot--swapping of internal PC components for easier service and maintenance.
On the multimedia side, expect a version of DirectX 6.x, Microsoft's graphics and audio API for games and other multimedia applications, to be bundled with SP1. SP1 will also feature the new media player.
Enhancements for Windows 98 networking include better performance and connection reliability for the dial-up networking (DUN). TCP/IP over asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) should also be fully supported in SP1. Furthermore, Internet Explorer 5 could make its way into SP1, as Microsoft speaks of providing an "enhanced browsing experience". IE5 would include all the current security patches for the browser and Outlook Express.
For enterprise networking, SP1 will have an update to its distributed component object model, but Computerworld was unable to find out the specifics of it.
"The Windows 98 service pack will include expanded hardware support along with many other updates," says Microsoft New Zealand business development manager Guy Haycock. "Windows 98 has been very well received, customer satisfaction is high and the issues that have been reported have been minor and rare. As we have done in the past, we will be issuing an OSR [operating system release] to our PC manufacturing partners with the same updates. When it is final, Windows 98 customers will be able to download this service pack from the Windows Update Web site."
Haycock says this is nothing out of the ordinary, especially since Windows 98 has the Windows Update feature. "This will allow customers to easily download the service pack via the Web."
Service pack 1 will be distributed to select beta sites towards the end of this month. Early next year, Microsoft will likely make SP1 available to end-users over the Internet, at Microsoft's Windows update Web site (www. windowsupdate.microsoft.com).