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Win 98 wins over consumer PCs

Ten days before its official launch, Microsoft says that 15 of the top computer makers will ship systems with Windows 98.

Ten days before its official launch, Microsoft announced today that 15 of the top computer makers will ship systems with Windows 98 on June 25, representing 60 percent of the overall consumer PC market.

While somewhat overshadowed by the development of Windows NT, Windows 98 will not generate the same level of enthusiasm as its predecessor did three years ago, according to Dwight Davis, an analyst at Summit Strategies.

"Windows 95 was all things to all people," Davis said. "It was a great consumer and a great business operating system," while Windows 98 is targeted mainly at consumers. Windows NT is being pushed as the corporate platform of the future.

"We are pleased with the amount of momentum," said Rob Bennett, group product manager for Windows 98. "This is a very strong statement of support."

This time around, PC makers are offering both platforms to their customers. "This really just shows that Microsoft is succeeding in establishing NT as the desktop option for corporate buyers, and OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] are supporting that," Davis said. Windows NT usually is shipped on more robust and expensive systems than Windows 95 or Windows 98, which is an additional motivation for PC makers to back it, he added.

In anticipation of the launch, Microsoft announced that it has increased its Windows 98 technical support staff to 1,000 engineers. The expanded staff will be answering user calls and tracking customer feedback, Bennett said, as well as creating online archives of "how-to" articles.

"We've done a lot to improve the way we do support over the Web," he added, noting that Windows 98 includes more "troubleshooting wizards" than its predecessor.

All Windows 98 customers are entitled to 90 days of free technical support.