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Windows 98 "enhancement" due

Microsoft admits the update, comprising new versions of multimedia applications, may contain some fixes.

The first update to Microsoft's Windows 98 operating system will be available on the company's Windows Update site beginning August 18, according to a letter sent out to beta testers yesterday.

It is unclear if the update, consisting of new versions of several Windows 98 multimedia applications, will contain any bug patches. But it is certain that Microsoft's latest consumer operating system, a hot seller released June 25, has come under fire for problematic upgrades on older machines and spotty recognition of peripheral devices such as printers.

Microsoft has disputed previous reports that the update is a "service pack," or a bug patch, See special report:
Cracked Windows but industry sources say that the update due later this month is in fact a patch repositioned as a "multimedia enhancement."

"This is not designed around bug fixes," said Craig Bielenson, product manager for Windows. "The thrust of this package is not focused on fixes."

However, Bielenson did concede that some of the newer versions of multimedia applications included in the update may have been upgraded not only to add functionality but also to fix glitches.

"It was coming out as a service release, but they renamed it. It fixes some multimedia bugs," said an executive at a PC company who preferred not to be named. "They're trying to position it as an enhancement, not a bug fix."

In a letter sent to Microsoft beta testers and posted to several Windows 98 Web sites earlier this week, the company detailed the features of the new update, which will include the latest versions of the following:

  • Microsoft DirectX gaming technology.

  • Microsoft Media Player, with access to Windows Media Advanced Streaming Format, QuickTime, MIDI, RealAudio, and RealVideo content.

  • New Web fonts.

  • Microsoft Chat 2.5.

  • WebTV Guide, which supports the GemStar electronic programming guide.

    Many of these features, such as the DirectX and Media Player applications, are already available for download through Microsoft's Web site.

    Microsoft confirmed that the letter to beta testers announces the upcoming update, but cautioned that August 18 is "a date that we are aiming for."

    Within Windows 98 newsgroups and Web sites, where rumors of a service pack for bug fixes have been swirling for weeks, users expressed irritation that so new a product already needed an update.

    "First, they want us to buy Windows 98 (the most expensive service pack ever) and then they release DX6 [DirectX 6] for Win 95 and tell Win 98 users they got to wait another?month until they get it???" wrote one exasperated user to a Windows newsgroup. "Is it really that hard to make the final [version] work?"