Microsoft outlines Windows 98, client OS strategy

As anticipated, Microsoft will call its next version of the Windows operating system Windows 98 and target it primarily at corporations with legacy applications. The company is positioning its Windows NT client OS for use with more advanced 32-bit applications only. And the next version of Office will feature 'self-repairing' applications. All this and more was revealed at a briefing this week.

As anticipated, Microsoft will call its next version of the Windows operating system Windows 98 and target it primarily at corporations with legacy applications. Microsoft is positioning its Windows NT client OS for use with more advanced 32-bit applications only.

The upgrade to Windows 95, known under the code name of Memphis and currently in beta testing, will be compatible with prior Windows applications up to the 32-bit level, said Paul Maritz, Microsoft group vice president of platforms and applications, at an analyst and press briefing.

Windows NT Workstation 4.0, and the many-months-off NT 5.0, will be fitted for a "strategic direction" in enterprises to provide the platform for the emerging new breed of 32-bit applications, said Maritz. Microsoft expects advanced companies to employ Windows NT 4.0 on new hardware purchases now in anticipation of NT 5.0, he said.

Also announced: a small business version of Windows NT Server will ship later this year. The product is code-named Sam. "We believe there is a tremendous growth opportunity to extend distributed computing into the small business space," said Maritz.

But the big news of the day was in the client operating systems. The delineation of the two client operating systems gives a clearer view of how Microsoft expects its customers to decide among Windows 98 and Windows NT, or some mix. In the past several years the company has changed tacks on the direction and potential overlap of the products.

"We expect to see customers deploying a mix of Windows-based systems designed for their specific user needs and system requirements," he told the 200 in attendance at the Washington State Convention Center.

In order to entice users to upgrade from existing Windows 95 systems to Windows 98 systems, the OS when it ships early next year will offer improvements in simplicity of use, performance, and manageability, said Maritz.

But especially different from Windows 95, Windows 98 will include the "active desktop" features that integrates the Web surfing navigation interfaces into managing files on local drives, intranets, and the Internet.

The company also said that improvements to the next version of Microsoft Office, the suite of productivity applications, could reduce by half the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the suite for those that adopt it.

Specifically, said Jon DeVaan, vice president of the desktop applications division, Microsoft Office's next version will offer:

--Self-repairing applications, which replaces missing system files and provides "self-repair" even if a critical file has been deleted.

--Installation-on-demand, which helps users install application add-ons from a server without outside help.

--Support for roaming users, which offers users to take their personalised desktop settings to any client with a networked log-on.

--Enhanced run-from-the-server configuration, to enable application updates just to the server because files can be access from the server without a local application footprint.

All these steps are designed to reduce calls and required intervention from help desks, said DeVaan..

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