The Texas computer maker said that it has begun shipping Microsoft's Windows 98 Second Edition update CD-ROMs with Dimension desktop and Inspiron notebook computers, aimed at the small business market. Previously these computers could be configured with Windows 98, but Dell will soon offer only the later version.
Windows 98 launched a year ago, targeted mainly at consumers rather than business customers. Since that time, Microsoft has adjusted its product plans to release Windows 98 SE. The update, which includes new versions of Internet Explorer as well as new Internet connection sharing technology, will act as a placeholder until the company releases the consumer version of Windows 2000.
Windows 98 SE also includes Windows NetMeeting 3 and the Windows 98 Service Pack, which contains bug fixes for the original version of Windows 98. Each of these components except Internet Connection Sharing will be available for free download.
Earlier this month, Microsoft released Windows 98 SE to computer makers for installation on new systems. The new operating system software will officially be released on June 10.
Existing Windows 98 users can order an update to SE for $19.95 from Microsoft. The CD-ROM will also be available at computer retailers this summer.
Microsoft has been criticized in some circles for charging users for what is essentially an update, especially as it is a departure from past practices. The revision was necessary because of the advances in home networking technology, Microsoft has argued in the past.
"Windows 98 is the operating system of choice for our home and small business customers, especially those small businesses who are not ready to move to Windows NT," said Stephan Godevais, vice president of Dell's Inspiron and Dimension businesses, in a statement.
Dell will begin shipping computers with Windows 98 SE pre-installed on June 10.