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Windows 98 may be early

Copies of Windows 98 could be available a full week earlier than previously stated, on June 15.

Windows 98 may be available on computers in retail stores up to a full week or more before the official launch date of June 25, retailers said today.

While Microsoft has not changed the official launch date, retailers say determined customers may be able to find PCs with Windows 98 around June 15 because retailers will have already received their copies of the product. Some of them may chose to sell early.

"From the beginning, Microsoft has told the OEMs they could have machines in the retail stores with Windows 98 by June 15," said Nathan Morton of Computer City. "This allows retailers to convert their inventory to Windows 98 by June 24."

Morton said it is "possible, but not guaranteed" that will be able to find Windows 98 PCs on June 15.

CompUSA may also have some machines on the floor with Windows 98 on June 15, but typical shipments from OEMs usually take around a week, a salesperson said.

The status of the release date came into confusion today as a result of comments made by Microsoft attorney John Warden in court. Warden said that retailers will have Windows 98 in their inventory weeks before the product actually launches.

A Microsoft spokesman said the Windows 98 launch date is still June 25. She added that Warden also reaffirmed the date in court.

How and when the product first gets sold is a matter of what will occur in the distribution system, said Dwight Davis, an analyst at Summit Strategies. Availability could easily come before June 25. "It's just a question of how fast the channel can accommodate," he said.

Computers from Gateway, Dell, and IBM, among others, already include a rebate certificate for a free upgrade to Windows 98. Additionally, many retailers have been taking orders for the upgrade for a few months.