Microsoft released Windows 98 last June as an update to the ubiquitous Windows 95 platform. Software companies often then release Service Packs (or SPs) to correct bugs for previously released applications or operating systems. The Windows 98 SP, however, has taken a path all its own.
The Windows 98 SP contains Windows 98 System Update, Internet Explorer 4.01 Service Pack 2, and Year 2000 updates. The updates have not yet been posted to the Windows Update site but can be accessed at the Microsoft Web site.
The release officially ends speculation and rumors that have surrounded the release of the Service Pack for almost a year. Since its release, Microsoft has continually tested and released updates to Windows 98, each time insisting that the releases did not qualify as a Service Pack.
Just months after the Windows 98 launch, Microsoft began testing fixes for the platform and in August released the "Multimedia Update." The update consisted of updated versions of a variety of multimedia applications, but the company acknowledged that the release had originally been positioned and tested as a Service Pack.
Microsoft's decision to shift the focus of the release from bug fixes to multimedia enhancements drew scorn from some critics who charged that Windows 98 was rushed to market before it was fully tested. Windows 98 has been criticized by many users for problematic upgrades and troublesome power management issues with notebook computers.
That scrutiny only intensified when Microsoft confirmed in October that it was testing a Windows 98 Service Pack, to be released in the first quarter of 1999. This collection of bug fixes initially included the latest bug fixes for Internet Explorer 4, as well as increased hardware support.
By this spring, however, Microsoft had added Internet Explorer 5, as well as Internet Connection Sharing technology, and renamed the release Windows 98 Second Edition. The relaunch of the operating system spurred confusion among many Windows 98 users, concerned they would have to buy Windows 98 SE to gain access to routine bug fixes.
Windows 98 SE was released earlier this month, with an estimated retail price of $89 for new users, and $20 for existing users of Windows 98. A CD-ROM of the Windows 98 Service Pack, which does not include Internet Connection Sharing, can be ordered for $5.