Microsoft has started distributing the beta for Windows 97, code named Memphis, worldwide. Microsoft New Zealand’s Guy Haycock says Memphis betas should reach New Zealand in three to four weeks.
The beta is in a much more limited release than Windows 95 was, with only 10 thousand CDs being sent out worldwide, and Haycock says he is unable to reveal yet who in New Zealand is getting a copy.
System administrators who do get a look at the official beta release of Memphis will find a pleasant surprise in the form of a new tool for the distribution of software help, fixes, and upgrades.
The Memphis beta will include a Help Desk feature which lets users update software, scan their drives for viruses and errors, and empty browser cache files. It will also include a database of system information that, when connected to the System Update Manager on Microsoft’s Web site, within Upgrade Manager, will facilitate speedy and smooth updates of software. The update site is not yet operational but Microsoft US says it will be up and running soon.
IS managers are hoping utilities such as the Upgrade Manager will allow them to buy or develop the customised components they want rather than buying applications full of features their users never make use of.
In this hypothetical situation, Microsoft would sell a Microsoft Word “shell” and then sell plug-in modules for additional features. This model could open up a market for third parties that could create more robust plug-in features.
Memphis will also let users use Internet Explorer 4.0 to manage local files as well as browse the Web. Also, Windows 9x will allow for centralised installation and maintenance, and include tuner architecture to add interactive Web pages and data to traditional television broadcasts.
Another feature not seen on the PC before (but available for years on the Mac) is support for multiple displays from a single CPU. This allows a user to click and drag windows among several different monitors.
This version will also allow users to vary screen resolutions for different monitors, a feature that could be useful in developing Web pages that will be viewed by all types of monitors.
Some would-be users are asking why they should buy Memphis when many of the features will be included in the Windows 95 update (OSR2) and the soon to be released Internet Explorer 4.0.
Consumers who own PCs that are more than a year old will find little advantage in paying for Memphis.
Memphis will only benefit owners of new PCs who need support for features such as support for the Universal Serial Bus and IEEE 1394 (also known as FireWire).
The final version of the new Windows 9x operating system is expected to go to manufacturing in the fourth quarter of this year.
More information about Memphis can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/