With Windows 98 less than a couple of weeks out the door , Microsoft is busy preparing enhancements for its new operating system designed to improve the performance of certain multimedia applications.
The features are being tested presently by a handful of beta users and should be available to consumers before the end of the year, depending on feedback from those tests, said Kim Akers, product manager for Windows 98. Users will be able to download the features from the Internet using the Windows Update feature in the new operating system.
Akers was quick to rebuff recent press reports that the company is preparing its first service pack for Windows 98.
"This is not a service pack. Service packs tend to be for bug fixes, and no major bugs have been reported to date," Akers said. "This is just the addition of some updated multimedia functionality."
The enhancements include support for Direct X 6.0, a set of application programming interfaces used by software developers to create graphic images and multimedia effects in applications like games and active Web pages.
DirectX 6.0 will allow users to take advantage of the latest rendering technologies and provide more realistic 3D images, Akers said. The technology will also improve a PC's ability to play DVDs (digital video disks), improving the quality of the image, while putting less strain on the system's microprocessor, Akers said.
The update will also include technology that allows users to take advantage of an electronic programming guide offered by Microsoft's Web TV Networks Inc. subsidiary. Users in the US who subscribe to Web TV's Internet service will be able to enter a zip code into their PC and download a local television guide, Akers said.
The new features were not finished when Windows 98 went into manufacture in May, hence the need for the update, Akers said.
So far Windows 98 has generated one third of the technical support calls that Windows 95 did, while sales are "comparable," Akers said.