SEATTLE--Without any fanfare, Microsoft (MSFT)
has finally said the magic number: 98, as in Windows 98, the official name of the next version of Windows, code-named Memphis.
In his opening remarks here at the Windows platform briefing,
Microsoft vice president Paul Maritz nonchalantly referred to Windows 98 in his overview of the Windows family. No announcements, no balloons, no multimedia extravaganza. One could almost hear the gathered members of the press heave a collective sigh of relief.
More specifically, Windows 98 will ship in the first quarter of next year, said Jim Allchin, senior vice president of Microsoft's personal systems and business group. A second Windows 98 beta is going out today, he added.
In the past several months, company representatives have jumped through hoops to convince the media and the industry that there was indeed a chance of getting Memphis out before the end of the year.
Cracks in the facade began to appear,
however, as the Microsoft press division earlier this summer printed up a run of books with "Windows 98" in the title. Last week, the company sent out Memphis betas to testers that replaced "Memphis" with "Windows 98" on display screens.
Windows 98 will have the Internet Explorer browser integrated into the main interface. In the week since the latest beta version of IE 4 was released, more than 1 million copies have been downloaded, according to Maritz.
The company also promised that the next version of the Office 97 application suite will cost 50 percent less to own and administer. Microsoft will achieve this with an automatic software update "Web channel" and fast installation of additional features from a central server.
In addition, the company will create a future server-based version of Office that needs no application files installed on local machines. Executives did not give a timetable for future versions.
Also at today's presentation, Microsoft said the first beta of Windows NT 5.0 will be distributed during the first week of September at a developer conference in San Diego. And the company announced it is shipping a small business server based on Windows NT 4.0 this quarter.