Microsoft prepares upgrade versions of Windows 95

Just nine months after Windows 95 shipped, Microsoft is readying two upgrades to the 32-bit client operating system aimed at appeasing OEMs with a long list of new features for which they have been clamouring.

"Some of this stuff we had expected to see from the get-go, but never got. Some of it has come up since Win95 first shipped. And the rest, I guess, is meant to bring Win95 into line with NT," says an executive of a hardware manufacturer in Europe.

But Microsoft warns that end-users won't see much of the the new PC features for some time.

"This is about addressing the needs of [original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of PC hardware] -- for us to support the hardware they want to build. That means this won't be making it through into the channel [to end users] until 1997," says Alex Saunders, a Windows 95 product manager at Microsoft.

According to Saunders, Windows OEM Service Release Version 2.0, due to be released to manufacturers by the middle of 1996, will include:

-- A new File Allocation Table 32 file system, which improves disk space allocation to support hard drives of up to 2 terabytes.

-- Crypto APIs, a new set of cryptography security-enhancing interfaces for developers.

-- Enhancements to Windows 95's PCMCIA support that will let Windows systems use multiple Smart Cards. -- Interupt Request sharing, which lets multiple devices interrupt each other.

-- PCI bridging and docking.

-- New power management features that will form a first step to OnNow, a technology that allows systems to turn themselves on and off.

-- Bundling of the upcoming Internet Explorer 3.0 browser applcation.

Service Release Version 3.0, due to ship toward the end of the year, will include the Win32 Driver Model, the universal driver model announced at the WinHec conference last month.

The Windows OEM Service Releases will only be shipped to manufacturers, but Microsoft says users will be able to download at least some of the new features from Microsoft's World Wide Web site.

Microsoft in Redmond, Washington can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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