Yesterday's announcement in Redmond that Windows 98, Microsoft's (MSFT)
next iteration of the Windows operating system, won't be out
until the first quarter of 1998 elicited reactions ranging all the way from
nonchalance to very mild indifference.
This comes against a backdrop
of conflicting reports earlier this month, particularly
when an industry newsletter published details on the shipping dates for
"Memphis," as Windows 98 was referred to previously. The Solution News
newsletter said Memphis would be in retailers' hands by November 1, as
reported in CNET's NEWS.COM on July 15.
Microsoft officials denied that it gave the dates to the newsletter's
publishers and called the information "inaccurate."
It appears, however, that some in the PC industry have already taken the
later 1998 introduction into account.
"It slid out of our product line a while ago," said Chris Pedersen,
worldwide consumer PC brand manager at Hewlett-Packard
(HPW), who also oversees HP's consumer PC Pavilion line.
"Even if it's on the shelf for the Christmas season, there won't be enough
machines with it to change the competitive situation."
Microsoft vice president Paul Maritz indirectly confirmed the delay when he
referred to the OS as "Windows 98" in a press conference in Redmond, Washington,
yesterday. Jim Allchin, senior vice president of Microsoft's personal
systems and business group, separately said that Windows 98 will ship in
the first quarter of next year.
The new version of Windows, which integrates Internet Explorer 4.0 and
other Web-centric features into the operating system, has already become a
1998 item for many in the PC industry, including the corporate market.
The news of the delay created little excitement in the corporate market.
Most corporate customers are still trying to absorb Windows 95 or have
decided to move toward NT Workstation 5.0 as their operating system
of choice. As a result, Windows 98 has yet to draw interest.
"Most of my customers have 2,000 seat installations or so. They will
probably wait at least a year after the software is out before trying it,"
said Kanan Hamzeh, general manager of Tri-Pole MicroAge, in Fountain Valley,
Hamzeh added that many customers are just completing the transition to
Windows 95. As an aside, he speculated that the potential upgrade to
Windows 98 will be easier than the shift to Windows 95 because the overall
differences in the operating systems are less extreme.
"It's not an issue for us," said Rand Morimoto, general manager of Inacom, in Oakland, California. "Most of our customers are moving to NT Workstation 5.0.
It's more stable in the sense that Windows 95 is becoming Windows 98 while
NT will be NT."
"The delay in Memphis is far less critical for us than a delay in NT 5.0,"
said Larry Sennett, a corporate spokesperson for HP's business unit.
A new beta of NT Workstation 5.0 will ship in September, said Microsoft.
The final product is due in the first half of 1998, said sources.