Is it Windows 98 or deja vu? The newest incarnation of Microsoft's operating system will be on its way to stores soon, but Microsoft's recent past suggests we've heard parts of this story before.
Microsoft announced a week ago Monday it was shipping Windows 98 to new-computer manufacturers. The Justice Department and 20 states plus the District of Columbia filed antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft the same day. Components shipped with Windows 98 are at the heart of the lawsuit.What's so familiar? Talk of antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft crowded in on the headlines in 1995 when the company launched Windows 95 in August of that year.
There was a lot of upfront hype for Windows 95, but sales dragged when potential buyers realized most PCs didn't have the RAM or processor speed needed to run the new software. Factoring in the cost of a hardware upgrade convinced many computer users to hang on to their Windows 3.1-series software until they bought a new computer that had Windows 95 pre-installed.
Windows 98 is scheduled to be on store shelves, both in cardboard boxes and new computer boxes, on June 25. It's possible an injunction from "Windows 98 - the lawsuit" could delay the release of "Windows 98 - the software," but when it does arrive in stores, questions remain about how well it will be received.
Joe Cooper, Computer City's Utah corporate sales manager, said Windows 98 isn't expected to be a big seller - "Not nearly as big as Windows 95." Users will more likely "be forced into it" when they buy new computers that already have the new operating system installed.
The look and feel of Windows 95 is dramatically different than the Windows 3.x series. Windows 98, however, will look very familiar to Windows 95 users, with many of its new features working in the background. It promises to run applications better and faster and keep users from having to interpret the "plug and play" label on accessories as "plug and pray."
Microsoft is demonstrating Windows 98 features on the Web at (www.microsoft.com/windows98/
"Windows 98 is catching fire among the PC enthusiasts," said Yusuf Mehdi, marketing director for Microsoft's personal business systems group. "The beauty of Windows 98 is that it runs applications faster and easier than Windows 95, while unlocking a whole new range of hardware devices and entertainment capabilities for consumers."
Microsoft said 40,000 enthusiasts pre-registered to attend Windows 98 show-and-tell satellite broadcasts in the United States in Canada with more than 95 percent of the attendees pledging their intention to buy the upgrade, which is expected to have a list price of $109.
But Windows 98 may suffer from a growing deference toward upgrades.
First in line to buy new technology are the "eager adopters," which likely describes the 40,000 people anxious enough to attend Microsoft's preview.
But California psychologist Larry Rosen, a specialist in the psychology of technology and professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, said even the "eager adopters" are showing signs of technology saturation.
"Certainly there will be some great things in Windows 98, but it's all the anticipated problems" that temper the enthusiasm for an upgrade. "We have very little time to deal with those problems," Rosen said. "We get a lot of calls from these eager adopters who say `I'm out of time, out of patience. I'm feeling stressed.' "
Were he advising Microsoft, Rosen would tell the software giant that new software with a significant impact on the user should be shipped with better, interactive tutorial resources.
Curtis Cook, LAN administrator at Computer City in Murray has already had his hands on thesoftware, critiquing beta versions for Microsoft for several months.
"It runs great. It hasn't blinked," Cook said, describing the look as more similar to Windows 95 than to Microsoft's more powerful, network-oriented Windows NT. "I've networked it. I've used some remote access with it. I've used it on a few types of machines with scanners and printers in multiple ways and multiple types of programs."