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MS shows off Memphis

Microsoft posts details on Memphis, the new version of Windows 95 due in the second half of this year.

Microsoft (MSFT) has given the first public sneak peak at Memphis, the next major upgrade of Windows 95 due in the second half of this year.

The company has posted a bulletin detailing the upgrades' feature to its "Executive Computing" Web site. The bulletin reiterates some of the previously known features of Memphis-- such as Internet/intranet browsing capabilities and support for new hardware technologies but also provides an overview of the Windows heir-apparent.

Up until now, the public has only heard bits and pieces of information about Memphis because Microsoft has been reluctant to detail its upgrade plans. In fact, Microsoft is still being a bit cagey.

"We posted the list because a lot of customers are asking general questions," said Windows product manager Phil Holden. "This is the stuff we've confirmed to be working on."

That list includes support for both the Universal Serial Bus and the IEEE 1394 or Firewire data paths, DVD, Intel's MMX processor, multiple monitor displays, and the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface, also known as OnNow technology.

OnNow will allow users to touch a key or switch and instantly boot up their PCs, more like a TV than current PCs. The technology will also work with the upcoming version of Windows NT and over networks so that administrators or users can "reach out" to wake up and manipulate remote machines.

Like many new network-based technologies, however, the ability to boot up a remote machine raises security questions. Each OnNow-enabled machine will use its own security model to prevent unauthorized access. For example, if an administrator on an NT machine accesses a Memphis machine, the Memphis security model will determine the level of security, according to Holden. Users concerned with security will be able to disable the OnNow feature, he added.

Memphis will also include Microsoft's zero-administration functionality, detailed last week. The upgrade will also contain all the same features such as FAT 32 support for larger hard drives included in the Windows 95 OEM-only release that Microsoft shipped last fall.

A small circle of developers have had an early Memphis beta since the end of last year. Microsoft is planning a second-quarter beta release for a limited number of corporate customers and current beta testers. That release will not have all the final features, Holden said, and will not be available to the general public.

The final release of Memphis is slated for the second half of 1997.