In response to widespread concern over the difficulty of migrating Windows 3.1 users to Windows 98, Microsoft has announced that it plans to push back the launch of Windows 98 from the first quarter to the second quarter of next year. Microsoft's share price slipped on the news, dropping 7-1/2 points to close at $US130-11/16.
Microsoft had already announced plans to ship some software that would enable users to make the upgrade, but had initially said that it would not ship this functionality until three months after the launch of Windows 98.
However, unhappiness on the part of the user community and business partners has forced the company to rethink its plans.
"Consistent feedback from both customers and channel partners was that they really wanted us to synchronize the release of both Windows 95 and Windows 98, so users can buy one box in the store, and corporate customers get one CD. Adding that functionality requires additional test time, so we've adapted our plans from Q1 to Q2 calendar year of 1998," said Phil Holden, Windows product manager at Microsoft.
It would be possible to move from Windows 3.1 to Windows 98 without this new functionality, but users would run the risk of not picking up support for all of the installed device drivers and existing 16-bit applications, industry observers say.
Windows 98 is in beta 2 now, and around 1500 people are using the software, according to Holden. Microsoft had said that it planned to support the upgrade from Windows 95 to Windows 98 at its launch, with support for the upgrade from Windows 3.1 to Windows 98 coming three to six months later.
Microsoft has been pushing customers hard to upgrade from Windows 3.1 to its 32-bit operating systems and company executives are reluctant to concede that some corporate customers have no need to upgrade at this time.
"The bottom dollar is it's a choice; they are going to stay, or they're going to move. But if they want to move, we'll make it easy as possible," said Holden.
According to Holden, the upgrade functionality will be built into the Windows 98 CD.