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Windows 98 for free

Gateway will offer new PC customers free upgrades to Windows 98 when it becomes available this summer, the first giveaway of its kind.

Gateway has begun offering new PC customers free upgrades to Windows 98 when the system software becomes available early this summer, a move that marks the first major promotion of Microsoft's newest operating system.

Starting yesterday, Gateway customers purchasing a PC with Windows 95 will receive a coupon good for a free upgrade to Windows 98, the company announced today. The promotion targets consumers, as Windows 98 is generally seen as a consumer rather than a corporate upgrade.

Unlike the launch of Windows 95, promotional activity surrounding the debut of Windows 98 has been relatively quiet. Developer activity in the months preceding its arrival has also been minimal, underlining the belief that Windows 98 is an interim solution until Windows NT, Microsoft's corporate operating system, becomes available in a consumer version around 2000 or 2001.

Windows 98 is expected to feature an integrated Web browser, faster application loading, and support for a television tuner and program guide, multiple monitors, DVD technology, and "plug-and-play" peripheral connections.

The new hardware support for multimedia and gaming applications figures to be be more appealing to individuals and less compelling for corporate customers. For this reason, systems managers may be reluctant to undertake the expense and hassle of upgrading hundreds of employee desktops to the new platform, analysts say.

Additionally, consumers are generally more willing to assume the risks that are inherent in adopting new technology than larger companies, Gateway said. "This [promotion] is largely aimed at the consumer market, which is consistent with what Microsoft has been doing with this product," a Gateway spokesman said.