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Windows 98 to preview in theaters

A satellite feed will beam a 45-minute program outlining new features to 38 movie theaters around the United States and Canada. Admission is free.

Windows 98 is coming to a theater near you on April 4.

Microsoft (MSFT) will offer a preview of its Windows 98 operating system software and other new products at 38 movie theaters around the United States and Canada via a satellite feed. Dubbed "Microsoft Extreme," this is the second in a series of events Microsoft has planned to preview new products.

The event is targeted at early technology adopters who actively seek out new products, Microsoft said. The preview of Windows 98 is 45 minutes long and focuses on new features like support for DVD (digital versatile disc), faster loading of programs, and a built-in television tuner. Windows 98 updates the widely used Windows 95 operating system.

The entire program is two hours long, and features free popcorn and soda.

"We wanted to offer a free event for people to get a first look at Microsoft's newest technology," said Kerri Grubb, marketing manager for Microsoft's end user customer unit. "We want to make it fun for people, not a dry demonstration."

Grubb said that Microsoft expects between 15,000 to 20,000 people to attend "Microsoft Extreme." The Redmond, Washington, software giant is sending invitations to people who have registered Microsoft products in the past, and is promoting the event in newspaper ads and through local retailers in areas near participating theaters.

Interested users must register, either through the Microsoft Extreme site or by calling 800/550-4300. Microsoft will also be demonstrating Outlook 98 messaging and email client and Money 98, a personal finance product.

Microsoft's chief operating officer, Robert J. Herbold, confirmed today that Windows 98 is on track to be released this spring. (See related story)